Hardly makes any noise, does not emit any smelly exhaust fumes and contains a lot of the latest technology - at least that is the general perception of electric cars.
However, electro-mobility is much more than that; the emission-free electric motors, fed with climate-neutral energy, are the technological promise that should lead us into a more environmentally friendly future.
Demand is also growing rapidly and politics could set the course for e-mobility in the United States in the near future, which is why it's time for a detailed look at the subject. What does e-mobility mean? What is there to know about EVs (i.e. electric vehicle)? What do Americans think about e-mobility?
With the Mobility Report 2021, Appinio is presenting an extensive survey in five countries. For the representative study (by age and gender), a total of 10,000 consumers in the United States, Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom were interviewed and asked about their opinion on EVs around the world. This E-Mobility Guide presents the most exciting insights into the results and tells you everything you should know about electric mobility.
Appinio has summarized the entire study results of the e-mobility study in a 50-page report. Access the report for free!
What is an electric car?
An electric car differs from a conventional car in one essential aspect: the engine.
Instead of diesel or gasoline, the electric car is propelled by electricity.
A rechargeable battery or a battery supplies the motor. Instead of going to the gas station, the driver of an electric car has to make their way to a public charging station or can conveniently plug up their car's battery pack at home.
It is surprising that our streets are not invaded by electric cars, after all, the idea of an electric car is more than 100 years old.
At the beginning of the 21st century, researchers worked on prototypes, but they failed because the technology of the time had not caught up yet. Another notable reason is that oil was cheaper and has long since established itself as the economic driver of the 21st century.
It was not until the 2000s that the electric car returned to the focus of automakers.
Since then, brands such as Tesla, VW, Renault, Hyundai, Audi and BMW have regularly come up with new models.
In the future, nobody will be able to ignore EVs, because they are an important piece of the puzzle in the energy transition. Many countries also want to ban the registrations of cars with conventional combustion engines in the coming years.
What types of electric cars are there?
The idea of an environmentally friendly and climate-neutral future can no longer be imagined without electric cars.
The vast majority of Americans (85%) think EVs are the future. However, the conventional cars (also called ICE car, as in internal combustion engine) has existed for over 100 years, while the EV technology is still in its infancy.
Aside from traditional car categories such as sedans, SUVs, pickups, and buses, there are various iterations of electric vehicles available that incorporate both past and future technologies or are currently being marketed as the next step in the evolution of electric mobility.
- Battery-powered e-car
What we know as a classic electric car is usually the Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). This type of electric car runs exclusively on electricity that is stored in a battery. This can be charged either at home or at a public charging station. Compared to an ICE car, this type of electric car has neither a gearbox nor a gearshift.
- Plug-in car
When an electric vehicle is charged through a cable from a charging station using an integrated socket, it is referred to as a plug-in car. There are two types of plug-in cars: a purely battery-powered version and a hybrid version that also includes a combustion engine. The hybrid version features an additional electric motor that assists the conventional main motor in order to reduce energy consumption.
- Hybrid car with a conventional engine
This particular type of electric car integrates both traditional and modern technology. Hybrid cars utilize two types of propulsion systems: electronic and conventional fossil fuels like gasoline or diesel. While the conventional fuel source powers the majority of the trip, the electric motor provides assistance during energy-intensive actions such as starting, accelerating, and braking. The additional electronic motor optimizes the combustion engine, resulting in reduced energy consumption.
- Hybrid car with an electronic motor
Hybrid vehicles primarily rely on electric motors for propulsion. The combustion engine built into these cars is utilized to extend their effective range after the battery has been depleted. However, the conventional engine is not directly responsible for powering the electric car. Instead, it operates a generator that charges the battery, enabling the electric motor to continue functioning.
- Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicle
One unique type of electric vehicle is the variant that incorporates fuel cells. The energy produced in these cells is generated through the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, resulting in a climate-neutral and completely emission-free driving experience, with only water being released as a byproduct. The primary challenge, however, is the limited availability of hydrogen fueling stations both in the US and worldwide. Despite this limitation, these electric cars are considered the next stage in the evolution of electric mobility, especially as the use of hydrogen becomes more accessible to the masses.
(Almost) every road leads to an EV...
Innovations traditionally have a difficult start on the market.
The technologies are immature and expensive, and only a handful of people can afford them.
For the time being, EVs are still perceived as expensive, also because in order to build motors and batteries, manufacturers need a lot of rare materials.
The Appinio Mobility Report reveals that the first association for nearly the majority of Americans (48%) is simply “expensive prices”.
As mentioned above, the high prices are justified by the use of rare raw materials to build the motor and batteries, and it is understandable that these high initial costs make many potential customers waver.
However, the advantages of an electric vehicle outweigh the disadvantages in the long run.
- Less air pollution
An EV puts less of an ecological strain than its fossil-fuel predecessor as it doesn't produce the same amount of emissions.
- Less noise pollution
Secondly, an electric car and much quieter than a combustion engine, which translates in less noise pollution.
One could argue that providing the electricity EVs need also causes strain on the environment as we need factories to produce electricity, but this needs to be viewed holistically.
Green & renewable technologies, like solar and wind power, will keep spreading and becoming standard practice, therefore, the carbon footprint of EVs is going to be even lower.
- Less waste
Another interesting point that sparks a lot of debate is the heart of electric vehicles: the battery.
Contrary to popular belief, the battery of an EV can live a second life.
Due to wear-and-tear, EV batteries need to be replaced after a while, but they can be recycled and become another energy storing device. If a combustion engine gets irreversibly damaged, it can no longer be repurposed and therefore gets thrown away.
- Easier maintenance
Finally, an electric car is clearly ahead in terms of maintenance: on average, an ICE consists of more than 1000 parts. An electric car, including a battery, has only about 200 components.
The technology in the EV is lighter, more compact, less prone to failure, making it easier to care for.
... apart from refuelling
The biggest challenge for EV drivers is the charging station network. The networks is not yet as dense and widespread as the petrol station network.
In the United States, charging stations are unevenly distributed, with California having around the same number of stations as the 39 states with the lowest amount combined.
The slow expansion is slowing down the triumph of electric cars in the years to come.
This also fuels prejudices about EVs: only one in two of those surveyed (52%) consider the charging infrastructure for EVs to be suitable for everyday use - among owners of conventional cars it is only one in five (22%).
However, EV owners seem to be able to come to terms with it as three times as many respondents (68%) consider the infrastructure to be suitable for everyday use.
Interestingly, more than two-thirds of non-owners find the installed batteries sufficient for everyday use (62%).
This share is greater among owners of an electric car, 73% of them feel that the installed batteries are sufficient for their everyday tasks.
Appinio has summarized the entire study results with a focus on e-mobility in a 50-page report. Download the report for free.
The state of electric cars in the United States
Pretty much every major car manufacturer is active in the e-mobility space.
We can find established players in the mobility field like Toyota, Ford, BMW, Audi, or Honda, but the superstar of electric mobility is only one: Tesla.
Under the leadership of the (in)famous Elon Musk, the American company has existed since 2003 and brought the first e-series car onto the market in 2008, creating a cult-like following!
In addition to electric cars, the company has also been producing batteries and solar systems in-house.
Tesla now offers six model series and, according to its own figures, sold almost 500,000 vehicles in 2020.
A large-scale factory, the "Gigafactory" in Berlin-Brandenburg, is to be completed in 2022 in order to further boost production and satisfy the high demand more quickly.
The Appinio study also confirms the stardom of Tesla: two out of three EV owners drive a Tesla (67%).
Tesla also stands out as a top-of-mind brand: more than a third (39%) think of Tesla first when they hear the word electric car.
No other brand is so often associated with the positive attributes of innovative, futuristic and environmentally friendly as Tesla.
Only when it comes to aspects such as passion and speed can competitors like Porsche outperform the American manufacturer.
Increasing demand in the American market
In the United States, the e-mobility market has developed slowly for a long time, but sales figures have been increasing strongly for several years.
While around 200,000 plug-in cars were sold in 2017, by 2019 there was already over 337,000 in circulation.
By 2021 there were already 148,000 EVs and 163,000 plug-in hybrids.
Between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, EV sales in the US quadrupled, leading to a share of 3.6% of total domestic car sales.
With the goal of making zero-emissions cars account for half of all new vehicle sales in the US by 2030, the Biden administration's infrastructure plan proposes spending billions on expanding EV charging stations.
New registrations for internal combustion engines with petrol, diesel or natural gas are declining, while registrations for hybrid, plug-in and electric cars are increasing rapidly.
Is this a good signal for the electric mobility industry or are consumers only trying an easy alternative to ICE cars?
Hurdles, purchase criteria and predominant brands - what do Americans really think about EVs?
Electric cars are not yet mainstream.
The Appinio study shows that two-thirds of Americans (66%) still drive an ICE car, and only one in 10 (10%) drives a fully electric or plug-in hybrid.
Nearly half of the owners of a combustion engine (46%) say that their next car will probably be electric.
Those who already drive electric cars are very likely to opt for an electric car again (88%).
Appinio has summarized the entire study results in a 50-page report. Download the report for free!
Download the Report
The majority have never sat in an EV, but the desire to try it out is great
The majority of non-owners have not yet even had the pleasure of experiencing an electric car, two thirds (69%) have never been in an EV.
But interest is high, 78% would like to test drive an electric car.
Especially in big cities, people have more contact with EVs in daily traffic or via taxi services & car sharing.
Those who have already had the pleasure of a joyride were generally enthusiastic: the majority (65%) found the test run (very) positive.
The greatest wow effects were provided by the car's silence (54%) and the comfort of the car (49%).
E stands for Environmentally friendly & Expensive
The ban on combustion engines from 2030 onwards is highly debated in the US, with a mere 53% supporting it.
Almost two thirds (64%) of Americans believe that politicians should offer more purchase incentives and subsidies to accelerate the switch to e-mobility.
The first thing Americans associate with EVs is the expensive prices (48%), followed by environmental friendliness (47%).
EV owners think about its futuristic quality (37%), environmental friendliness (36%) and innovativeness (33%) and driving pleasure (30%).
When it comes to general purchase criteria, nothing is as important as the price (80%) and safety (79%) of a car.
The type of car - i.e. electric or ICE - comes only in fourth place (78%).
Perception of e-mobility brands: Tesla takes it all
As mentioned above, more than a third of Americans think of Tesla when they think of electric cars(39%).
The brand is also the most associated with the concept e-mobility in general (77%).
Beside expensive prices (64%), Americans associate Tesla with futurism & innovation (58% and 51% respectively). Also when it comes to environmental friendliness, the American manufacturer outshines all other cart manufactures.
Let’s have a look at other big brands.
Mercedes & Porsche edge out Tesla when it comes to their attractive design (both at 45% vs. Tesla at 43%).
When it comes to speed and passion in the e-segment, no one stands out as much as Porsche (49% and 26% respectively).
The driving pleasure category is won again by Porsche (39%), followed closely by Mercedes & BMW (both 37%).
EVs in Germany, France, Spain and the UK
The Appinio study was also conducted in other countries to get a more comprehensive overview of the market and offer the chance to make international comparisons on the topic of e-mobility.
For example, the Spanish and British respondents stand out with a particularly high level of acceptance for e-mobility: nine out of ten respondents from Spain (90%) and Britain (88%) are confident to see EVs as part of the future.
In Germany, only two thirds (66%) say the same, France and the USA are in the middle (72% and 81% respectively).
Support for a ban on new registrations of combustion engines from 2030 is also highest in the UK and Spain (70% and 69% respectively).
While the USA is divided (52% in favour), skepticism is high in Germany and France (only 44% each in favour).
These differences seem surprising if we look at the prevalence of EVs in each country: 13% of the Germans, French & Brits own an EV, in Spain it is marginally less (12%), in the USA it is 10%.
The French & Germans focus on costs, the Spaniards dream of the environment
We have already seen that electric cars are often associated with high prices, and this perception is the same for all five countries.
French & Germans above all other countries are the most price sensitive (61% & 54% respectively).
Interestingly to note that, in all five markets, the older the respondents, the more likely they are to associate EVs to expensive prices.
The Spaniards, on the other hand, associate electric mobility predominantly with environmental friendliness (57%).
In the USA respondents vacillate between environmental friendliness and high prices (46% and 48%) - similar to the UK.
When it comes to the brands that are most associated with e-mobility, Tesla is clearly ahead in every country surveyed.
Only in France does the domestic manufacturer Renault engage in a serious tête-à-tête with the industry leader (43% vs. 47%).
Toyota is also well placed in the public eye in Spain, France and the USA (26%, 25% and 25% respectively), in Germany, the Japanese manufacturer only comes in sixth place behind VW, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz (11%).
The electric train is (slowly) taking off towards a climate-neutral future
While Europe is steadfastly heading towards an EV future, America's trajectory still remains unclear.
The Biden administration is clearly looking towards sustainability and fighting climate change, but, as we've seen in the past, these goals could be completely scrapped with the election of a new administration.
Public opinion is also integral to ensure these goals are met.
Car manufacturers regularly entice customers with new models, and political "environmental bonuses" are changing the minds of more and more undecided drivers.
Since last year, the sales figures for electric cars in the US have been rising strongly, and promising figures have been forecast for 2021.
The topic of electric mobility is increasingly present in the media, at work, in leisure time or among friends and acquaintances! In order to speed up adoption, there needs to be further financial incentives & more education from business and politics as well as more efforts into expanding the public charging station infrastructure.
The results of the Appinio Mobility Report give a clear message: interest and demand are definitely there!
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