Charging station availability is the biggest barrier for those not buying or leasing an electric vehicle, according to a January 2023 Oliver Wyman Forum survey of more than 10,000 respondents across 11 countries.
Nearly 40% of consumers across our survey say they’re planning for an EV as their next personal car – a figure that is relatively unchanged since December 2021, according to our surveys.
That plateau of consumer EV interest must end. The latest United Nations report on climate change warns of failing to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the early 2030s. The report says EVs have the best potential to decarbonize land-based transit, but that hinges on continued charging infrastructure investments.
Chinese and German consumers continue to show the highest rate of intent since the end of 2021, with about 50% in both nations planning to buy or lease an EV. Their steadfastness defies a pullback from government subsidies to purchase them. The Chinese government cut most subsidies for EVs at the end of 2022, although a 10% tax exemption remains until the end of 2023. Meanwhile, German authorities attribute the 14% market share of EVs as a reason to cut financial incentives to buy them this year given their growing popularity.
North America is a tale of two countries: growing interest in Canada and lower interest in the United States. Canada saw the highest jump in interest since November 2022, with a 9% increase in consumers who plan to buy an EV in January 2023 to a total of 36%. This receptiveness came the same month as when Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated a commitment to invest more than $1.2 billion to build about 84,500 domestically made chargers.
The US continues to show the lowest intent among its consumers to pursue an EV, with just about a quarter of shoppers exhibiting interest since December 2021. It’s perhaps a surprising result given the Biden administration’s commitments to build half a million public charging stations across the country and offer subsidies for EV purchases. The EPA’s recently proposed rule of two-thirds of new car sales being electric by 2032 will drive uptake. But for now, Americans don’t seem to be convinced on charging infrastructure, as 62% of those who aren’t going to buy an EV say that charging availability is the top deterrent. Consumers may be wary of unreliable charging networks, with one study claiming that at least one in five charging attempts fail in the US.
Americans aren’t alone in this concern: Charging station availability is the top barrier for non-EV shoppers in all surveyed countries outside of China, where battery travel distance is the biggest concern. Thirty-nine percent of Chinese consumers say they have charging station concerns – the second highest barrier among them. The Chinese government has a plan to build enough charging points to meet the needs of more than 20 million cars by 2025, particularly by expanding infrastructure further inland from urban, coastal areas.
And while half of German consumers say they’ll be driving an EV soon, 57% of those who are opting for a hybrid or gasoline vehicle say they’re worried about access to charging stations. That hesitancy comes even after the German government approved a nearly $7 billion plan in 2022 to rapidly grow the number of charging stations nationwide.
But overall, the number of consumers who are not driving EVs and are concerned about charging stations has slightly decreased, from 60% of those reporting this hesitation in December 2021 to 55% saying the same in January 2023.
And for all the emphasis on charging station availability, costs remain as a top barrier for many. When asked to rank their top three barriers, 41% of responses cite the price of EVs relative to other vehicles as a deterrent – the second-highest reported barrier. Eleven percent of these EV eschewers selected a new, cost-based choice featured in the January 2023 survey edition: concerns about increasing charging costs associated with electric vehicles.
Those who are buying or leasing EVs are shifting in what influences their purchasing decision. The availability of charging stations is still a top response but now seems to matter less, as 49% said charging infrastructure influenced their decision – a slight drop of 5% from their responses in December 2021. Many instead are perhaps encouraged by advancements in EV technology: 31% said that travel distance on a single charge convinced them to go electric – a jump of 9% from those who said the same in December 2021 and the biggest gaining factor since that time.
And while battery technology is still improving, governments and businesses can soothe range anxiety with more charging infrastructure. These consumers will have some time to wait for that infrastructure growth, too, as more than 46% of EV buyers plan to make their purchase within the next one-to-two years.