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They’ve sparked a transport revolution. But despite being the third-largest market for electric cars in the world after China and Europe, Americans aren’t rushing to buy electric. Just 8 per cent of the cars sold in America in 2022 were EVs, a figure that’s projected to rise to 12 per cent in 2023.
And yet the White House wants electric cars to make up half of the vehicles sold in the US by the end of this decade, which is why Washington served up juicy tax breaks in an attempt to coax more Americans into buying electric. It’s all part of the sweeping clean energy legislation and hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies introduced by Joe Biden’s climate-focused administration.
But recent polls suggest that US citizens aren’t keen to give up their addiction to petrol-fueled cars. Even with the tax breaks, a recent survey found that just 2 in every 10 Americans are, quote, “very likely” to buy an EV as their next car.
For Republicans, that figure is just 1 in 10. And it’s the high cost of the cars and lack of charging infrastructure that’s to blame. 8 in 10 Americans say that it’s the price of EVs that puts them off, and almost as many cite the lack of charger availability as the reason.
The average EV sold for just over $60,000 in December 2022, too much for most buyers’ budgets, even with government incentives. And despite Joe Biden’s pledge to invest over $7bn into 500,000 charging points, public chargers are still more likely to be found in America’s wealthy and white neighbourhoods.
And cross-country trips in an EV are still considered a risky endeavour, requiring advanced research and often triggering range anxiety. Even so, EV momentum is building. Tesla, GM, and others are linking up to share charging infrastructure, a big deal.
In January 2023, out of more than a million new light vehicles registered in the US, 7.1 per cent were all-electric. That’s almost a doubling of the market share compared to the year before. Intriguingly, back in 1900, electric cars accounted for roughly a third of all the vehicles on the road in the US. Getting back to that level isn’t going to happen overnight.