Updated May 28, 2022 - Energy & Environment

The world's car buyers are ready to go electric

Consumer interest in electric vehicles
Data: EY Mobility Consumer Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer interest in electric vehicles has hit a global tipping point, with more than half of car buyers saying they want their next car to be an EV, new research from Ernst & Young shows.

  • Yes, but: Americans still aren't as enthusiastic as consumers in Europe and Asia.

Why it matters: The world is in the midst of a global transition away from gasoline-powered vehicles, driven by environmental concerns and, in some countries, avoidance of stiff penalties on vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Driving the news: 52% of respondents to EY's annual Mobility Consumer Index who are looking to buy a car want an EV, according to the survey of 13,000 people in 18 countries.

  • That's a leap of 22 percentage points in two years, and the first time that EV interest exceeded 50%, the company said.
  • Buyers in Italy (73%), China (69%) and South Korea (63%) were the most interested.
  • Consumers in Australia (38%) and the U.S. (29%) showed less interest.

Between the lines: Government policies are probably driving consumer choices in many markets.

  • The European Union, for example, plans to ban sales of conventional gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
  • China wants 40% of vehicles sold to be electric by 2030 and has used buyer subsidies and other policy measures to support the transition.
  • In the U.S., President Biden set a target for 50% of new cars to be electric by 2030. But with gas prices spiking, a proposal to boost tax credits for consumers who choose EVs is now getting congressional pushback.
  • For the first time in the poll, 34% of respondents identified rising penalties on conventional cars as a key factor in their purchase decision, E&Y found.
  • And 88% say they would pay more for an EV.

One issue that's starting to fade: range anxiety, especially for second-time EV owners, the survey showed.

  • As battery technology advances and access to charging infrastructure improves, such worries will disappear, said EY.

What they're saying: “These findings truly mark a tipping point in the global car-buying market," said Randy Miller, leader of the firm's advanced manufacturing and mobility practice.

  • "There is no doubt that global gas price rises have played their part in making internal combustion engines more expensive, but environmental concerns also remain top of the list of motivators."
  • “The old issues of worrying about charging infrastructure and the range of EVs will soon come to an end."

Where it stands: In the U.S, electric vehicles accounted for a record 4.6% of new car registrations in the first quarter of 2022 — nearly double last year's 2.4%, according to new data from S&P Global Mobility.

  • But EV ownership varies widely throughout the country, ranging from 14.7% in Los Angeles to 1.6% in Detroit.
  • Tesla dominates the EV market, with 71.1% share, down slightly from 71.8% a year ago.
  • There are 1.44 million electric vehicles in operation in the U.S. now, up a whopping 40% from last year.

Reality check: Overall, EVs still account for less than 1% (0.51%) of all vehicles on U.S. roads.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 23. An earlier version of this story misstated the European Union's position on conventional gas-powered vehicles: It will ban sales of the vehicles — not the vehicles themselves — and do so by 2035, not 2030.

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