To sell more electric cars, vehicle manufacturers need to look beyond appeals to environmental concern and start addressing practical considerations like battery life and price. That’s the picture that emerges from a new YouGov report into consumer perception of electric cars across nine European markets. The research shows that, although half of European consumers say helping the environment is a reason to buy an electric car, only 6% say it’s their only reason.
And while that means concern for the environment is the biggest single motivation, two of the next three most popular reasons given are financial. A third of those surveyed cited the lower running costs of electric cars, and just over a quarter said they were motivated by the tax breaks given to electric car owners.
The flipside is that nearly two-thirds of consumers said the limited charging infrastructure was a barrier to them buying an electric car, 58% had concerns about battery life and 53% were worried about the cost.
All this suggests that manufacturers have got the environmental message about electric cars across, and that the purchase decision is now driven by similar factors as for traditional vehicles. For example, almost 20% of consumers said inferior performance was a reason for them not to buy an electric car, while almost 10% cited the lack of electric cars from their preferred marques.
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A fraction of the market
These figures need to be seen in the context of the overall market. Only 3% of people surveyed own an electric or hybrid car, compared to just over half who own a petrol-driven car and a third who own a diesel.
The relatively small number of electric cars on the road, and their relative newness, means a still-smaller selection available second-hand, something that a quarter of Europeans see as a barrier to purchase. The research found that this creates particular issues in countries where consumers like to buy or lease their cars second-hand, such as the UK, where almost a third of consumers see the lack of used electric cars as a problem.
However, YouGov found the position of electric cars in the market may be on the point of changing. At the start of 2020, 35% of consumers were thinking about buying a petrol car.
But 30% were thinking about buying a hybrid, and a quarter about buying an electric car. Even in June 2020, when the automotive market was struggling with the uncertainty and economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, YouGov found there was no change in consideration levels at a European level. The research also found that almost a third of Europeans believe the electric car is the way of the future; 29% said that buying one would be future-proofing yourself against the decline of fossil fuel engines.
The report also reveals the differences in attitudes to electric cars across nine European markets, and in the factors likely to affect the decision to buy electric. Norway is Europe’s most developed market for electric cars, driven by the incentives to buy electric offered by the Norwegian government since 1990. Half of Norwegians are motivated to buy an electric car by the lower running costs, while 41% cite the tax advantages as a reason.
In contrast, Spaniards are the most motivated by the desire to future-proof their motoring, with half saying it’s a reason to buy electric. They’re also the most concerned about the lack of charging points, with nearly three-quarters (71%) saying it’s a barrier to purchasing an electric car.
Meanwhile people in Sweden are the most likely to be concerned about the cost of buying an electric car, and those in the UK are the most worried about battery life.
What all this shows is that, while there is a huge opportunity for electric cars to increase their share of the European market, manufacturers need not only to addressing their potential customers’ practical and financial concerns as much as their environmental worries, they need to be looking at those concerns country by country in order for their marketing efforts to have the greatest effect.
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