Half of North Carolina drivers consider buying an EV, but many remain hesitant, survey finds
Every day, more and more electric vehicles (EVs) are hitting the road. Over 25,000 EVs were registered in North Carolina last year, and nearly half of all North Carolina residents are considering an electric vehicle as their next car. However, as a recent survey out of NC State finds, North Carolinians know some, but not a lot about EVs, making many hesitant to take that next step.
The survey looked at public perceptions of electric vehicles and of different infrastructure funding models. It is from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at NC State.
Daniel Findley is one of the researchers who conducted the NCDOT and ITRE study. He says while North Carolina residents may be EV-curious, a lack of knowledge about EVs makes them hesitant. The top-most consideration for consumers is cost, according to the survey.
“I think when people are picturing an electric vehicle, they’re probably picturing the higher end of the market and thinking about that as a higher initial purchase price,” Findley said.
The average cost for a new EV in 2022 was $66,000, but some makes and models can be as low as $30,000. Also factoring into the cost is the thousands in state and federal tax credits. EV purchasers could qualify for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, but only for certain makes and models and if you owe taxes.
The cost of maintenance is the second most important for consumers when considering their next vehicle. Forty-six percent of respondents thought EVs would be more costly to maintain, but some studies show the maintenance cost for an EV is often lower than a traditional gas-powered vehicle. EVs have fewer parts, no oil to change, and no traditional transmission. One study said after driving 200,000 miles, it would cost $8,000 less to maintain an EV versus a gas-powered car.
Another factor that makes people hesitant is what’s known as range anxiety. That anxiety about just how far a car can drive before needing to recharge or refuel, exists for both EVs and gas-powered vehicles. They’re just not thought of in the same way, says Findley.
“We see it on the gas-powered side as well, but we wouldn’t frame it as range anxiety,” he said. “It’s interesting, because you can see that range question come up with gas powered vehicles, when we have disruptions to the supply chain, and we see people panicking at gas stations and filling up their vehicles when they may not need to do it immediately.”
Range anxiety ultimately boils down to reliability, and as with all forms of transportation, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider. However, the average EV can travel 200-400 miles before needing to recharge.
“There has been a lot of research and information out there about our average trip length and for most people, the vast majority of our trips can be serviced by an electric vehicle,” Findley said.
Americans drive roughly 35 miles per day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s a trip to work and back, or to the grocery store and back for some.
But what if you need to recharge while you’re at the grocery store or on a long road trip? Would you find a charging station when needed?
A third of respondents said there was no charging port available where they work, but just 7% said it would be difficult to find a station while traveling long distances.
“Most people think that on a long car trip you would be able to find a place to charge,” Findley added.
Finding a place to charge in some places is easier than in others. In Raleigh there is nearly 600 public charging ports, but in Duplin County, there’s just two. But unlike with a gas-powered vehicle, you can always refuel, or recharge, at your home.
While a little over a half of North Carolinians say they’re considering an EV as their next vehicle, a third say they would not consider an electric car. Those who said they would not stood firm in their position. In focus groups, the survey team told respondents that average range, lower maintenance costs and that an EV could serve as a generator when the power is out.
“Only 5% of participants who said they weren’t interested in electric vehicles could be convinced to change their responses,” Findley said.
The transition to EVs, says Findley, may be made smoother and swifter knowing that legacy carmakers like General Motors and Ford, are transitioning popular makes and models to electric.
"To get your EV, you can go to a brand that you have a longer history with,” he said. “You say ‘I trust this brand. I’m willing to trust them on this next step.’”
In short, North Carolinians approach EVs optimistically, but also cautiously, according to the ITRE’s report, which is a good sign for the state’s plans to ramp up EV adoption. One year ago, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order seeking to put 1,250,000 EVs on North Carolina’s roads by 2030 and he promised to install 80,000 charging stations across the state by the end of his first term.
The survey also took a look at transportation funding models. A majority of respondents said that taxes and fees to support the state's transportation infrastructure should increase or stay the same.
Currently, North Carolina uses a number of different revenue streams to fund its road and transportation systems, including a gas tax and vehicle registration fees. However, the state is looking to test out a new miles-driven fee. Under this scheme, drivers would pay a tax for every mile driven. Oregon and Illinois have already implemented this funding model. Findley says the state may need to explore other funding models because the revenue from the gas tax will decrease as more electric vehicles hit the road.
"It was a great great model for 100 years," Findley said about the gas tax. "But that linkage is being broken with electrification and fuel economy. I think a lot of people see the horizon closing in on us, and when the gas tax is not going to be as feasible an option to fund transportation."