Why Americans are buying more electric cars than ever before

For years, hybrids and electric vehicles were the stuff of sci-fi novels and jokes about wealthy suburbanites. Now, as more millennials are ramping up their personal fight against global warming and climate change, cars that were once ridiculed and seen as highly suspect are becoming the generation’s new norm. While a 2015 survey (published in 2016) from the Wall Street Journal reported that when considering a car, millennials prioritize price, cost of ownership, design, and brand, all before fuel efficiency, the percentage of people interested in purchasing an EV jumped 5% from 31% in 2015 to 36% in 2016. According to the Consumer Federation of America, half of the surveyed millennials said they would consider an EV, and not surprisingly 70% of millennials said yes in response to the question “The next time you buy or lease a car, would you consider an electric vehicle if it costs the same as a gas-powered car, has lower operating and maintenance costs, has a 200 mile range between charges, and can recharge in less than an hour?”  

Another report, this one from AAA predicted that more than 30 million Americans are planning on opting for an EV when purchasing their next car and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that by 2030, there will be more than 20 million electric car sales worldwide.

What’s spurring this new interest in switching from gasoline powered cars to battery run vehicles? Here are a few factors contributing to the changing landscape of electric car consumption. 

1. Upfront Cost

As with most major purchases, those in the market for a new car tend to rely on their personal budget to narrow down their search and for a while, electric vehicles were seen as luxury items rather than a practical, not to mention, possible solution. However, now that battery prices are decreasing by about 20% per year and the more affordable car manufacturers are easing their way into the EV making business, protecting the environment while driving from point A to point B will no longer be a privilege solely for the 1%.

Plus, there are also federal, and depending on where you live, regional tax credits for new EVs and Hybrids. Unfortunately, the IRS will only offer the $2,500-$7,500 credit until 200,000 qualified cars are sold by each manufacturer.

2.Maintenance Cost

Aside from the initial upfront costs, EVs also have the added perk of not requiring gasoline, an expense that sets the average American back more than $1000 per year. And if you’re worried about having to replace your car’s battery, most manufacturers offer decent warranties not to mention promise a long lasting product.

3. The Environment

In the same AAA survey, 87% of the 1,004 respondents cited the environment as the number one reason for wanting an electric car. However, the report also acknowledged that “the number of Americans interested in an electric vehicle approaches the number planning to purchase a pickup truck,” which in a very general sense, means that for every driver who’s concerned about their fuel emissions, there’s another driver who doesn’t really care.

At the same time, there’s also a growing body of evidence that suggests that EVs aren’t as eco-friendly as their manufacturers want us to believe. A study published in Nature from Associate Professor Stephen Holland of the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found that “Across the United States, electric vehicles are more detrimental to the environment than petrol-powered vehicles thanks to the pollution created in generating electricity.” The study goes on to explain that the environmental impact of EVs vary based on region as the sources of electricity range from those producing clean energy to coal-fired power plants.

While you shouldn’t expect to see every car replaced by an EV anytime soon, a future of gasoline-free vehicles isn’t as far out of the realm of reality as it once seemed. And with millennials showing interest, you know that it’ll only be a matter of time before everyone is lining up to plug in their car and give it a charge before their next roadtrip or commute to work.


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