Are You Thinking About an EV?

Recently we participated in an Earth Day event at a library in Door County, Wisconsin. The event offered us an opportunity to interact with the general public so we decided to conduct a short survey on electric vehicles (EVs).

Now attendees at an Earth Day event aren’t “typical” consumers. We knew this audience would tilt green but we also thought it would be useful to understand what this greenish audience thought about EVs.

Just under 40 people completed our survey, which means it’s a small sample and we won’t draw any big conclusions. More, folks did this survey on their phone or our iPad while standing at our table, sometimes while also juggling toddlers, which means they had limited time and attention. (Arguably that makes them a little more typical—everyone we’re all trying to reach has limited time and attention.)

What we heard was interesting.

Survey Results

In this greenish crowd, one survey respondent owned an EV and eight reported that they were not familiar with EVs. Everyone else said they’d read about EVs or been in one (as a driver or a passenger). As you might expect, the bulk of folks had more than one EV interaction—many had read articles, watched videos and either driven or been a passenger in an EV. About one-third of respondents reported that they were likely or very likely to consider an EV the next time they purchased a car, which is consistent with various other surveys but also not terribly informative since we humans are pretty awful at predicting our own behaviors.

We were most curious about what these respondents thought about EVs. We asked two open-ended questions to understand what was front of mind for them. We were curious about what they thought of first relative to benefits and concerns. (The responses below are verbatim; a number in parenthesis indicates that more than one person had this exact response.)

What do you like about electric vehicles?

  • Everything, clean, efficient, inexpensive to operate, nonpolluting.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Best for our environment
  • Energy efficiency and non-carbon producing
  • Low carbon emissions
  • Kind to the environment.
  • Clean energy (2)
  • Their quiet presence when driving. And the fact that you must plan your usage more carefully (energy-wise).
  • No fumes
  • No gas. No pollution.
  • No pollution
  • No fossil fuels…longer drive range
  • Everything (2)
  • Lean energy
  • They offer an alternative to traditional transportation.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • No emissions.
  • No gas or pollution
  • Nothing (2)
  • Quiet travel
  • Clean, mean, team machine
  • Renewable energy chargers
  • Less gas
  • Sustainability and the fact that they can be less complex/more reliable than petrol.
  • Low cost of operation
  • Reducing use of fossil fuels.
  • efficiency, reliability, saving the world with EV to PV
  • Not enough info
  • Environmentally friendly
  • I don’t know much about them (2)

What concerns you about electric vehicles?

  • Range anxiety, purchase cost.
  • Cost (2)
  • Battery life
  • Limited drive range, limited power sources and vehicle cost
  • Lack of acceptance, charging infrastructure
  • The price
  • Lack of affordability initially.
  • It takes more in the long run according to critics
  • Length of trips that can be made. Availability of recharging stations.
  • Need station wagon models to carry dogs!
  • Distance it can travel
  • None
  • Charging stations
  • Availability of charging stations
  • Not enough drive time
  • Mining and manufacturing the materials to make them.
  • Lack of plugins
  • Cost going up as become more popular also may be too technical for me
  • Nothing (2)
  • Doesn’t really save energy
  • Not enough charging opportunities
  • Coal burning chargers
  • Mileage
  • Initial cost
  • Cost to purchase, how to dispose of spent batteries.
  • Miles between charges
  • Range, charging stations, and source of electricity used in charging.
  • Coal powering EV
  • Cost and availability of charging stations
  • Making them and battery waste may not be environmentally friendly
  • No concerns


Looking at these responses, it’s striking that most of the benefits listed relate to the environment. Nobody said, for example, that EVs are really fun to drive because of the instant torque. (See what EV owners say there is to love about EVs here.) Remember, though, this was a survey at an Earth Day event so folks were primed to think about the environment. Still, it reinforces that we need to talk more about the magic of driving an EV so that those benefits are more front of mind.

On the concerns side there were three themes—purchase price, charging infrastructure and anxiety that EVs aren’t as green as promised (due to electricity from coal, battery disposal, etc.). Of these, the third one (which, again, might be over-represented here due to our Earth Day location) merits the most attention.

As folks shop for a car, the price anxiety is likely to dissipate; the average new car purchase in the US last year was $36,000 and there are multiple EV models in that price range (assuming federal tax credits).

Similarly, newer EVs have longer ranges and states are working hard to address charging infrastructure along key travel routes so range anxiety is fast becoming something of the past.

The notion, though, that EVs aren’t really green is more insidious. This is an issue we’ve got to address head on. Fossil fuel advocates argue that EVs aren’t green and, while these claims get attention, the facts are clear: EVs are better for the environment. EVs are best for the environment when electricity comes from clean energy sources but, even in a state like Wisconsin where almost half of our electricity still comes from coal, EVs are better for the environment. (You can assess the environmental benefits of an EV at your own zip code via a calculator from the Union of Concerned Scientists.)

For us, the short survey helped us identify the EV benefits we want to showcase going forward. And it also helped identify barriers we need to address. Hopefully it will help to inspire your efforts as well!

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