Knowledge gap to blame for slow electric vehicle sales

New research by What Car? finds that despite electric cars being suitable for more motorists than ever before, a lack of understanding is stopping drivers from buying one...

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Conflicting and confusing information on the latest generation of electric cars has created a ‘knowledge gap’ for potential buyers that is holding them back from choosing an EV as their next purchase, research by What Car? has found.

This is despite 2019 being set to become the year of the electric vehicle, with up to 20 new models scheduled to be launched. Indeed, our 2019 Car of the Year, the Kia e-Niro, is fully electric.

Meanwhile, traffic data suggests public interest in EVs is at record levels. In a study of more than 9000 motorists, What Car? found 8.4% are already considering a fully electric car as their next vehicle.

The What Car? What Fuel? comparison tool, with 80,000 users, also found EVs are already an optimal choice for one in 10 drivers. In comparison, the UK market share of fully electric vehicles was only 0.7% in 2018, meaning electric vehicle sales are achieving just 7% of their potential.

Kia e-Niro

Over a period of three months, What Car? surveyed how 9000 consumers rated their understanding of electric vehicles as they researched the technology. Buyers rated their initial knowledge at an average of 2.7 out of five during the first 10 days, rising to 3.4 after 10 days of research. However, understanding fell to 3.3 after a month of research, suggesting some respondents came across confusing or conflicting information. After three months, the average understanding peaked at 3.8.  

By comparison, What Car? found buyers rated their initial understanding of both petrol and diesel cars at 3.8 – meaning it takes three months of research for potential EV buyers to close the knowledge gap they have on EVs in comparison to petrol and diesel vehicles.

What Car?’s research also found that EV cost, not range, is the biggest barrier for buyers. Range was the second-largest concern for buyers, with 28% put off by the reduced flexibility compared with petrol and diesel, even though 10% would be able to drive an EV without making changes to their lifestyle.

A further 15% said they were concerned about charging opportunities and infrastructure, while 16% wished for a larger selection of electric vehicles to choose from before buying one.

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