One in three Europeans does not want to pay such a high premium for electric vehicles, new study reveals

One in three Europeans does not want to pay such a high premium for electric vehicles, new study reveals

  • Escalent’s EVForward study of European new-car buyers reveals cost is a key factor for their next vehicle purchase as they continue to face a higher cost of living
  • Perception of EV charging infrastructure as a “work in progress” sees buyers establishing their own plan B with plug-in hybrids or petrol cars
  • Fewer buyers see electric vehicles as the future

One in three Europeans (34%) does not expect to pay a premium for a new electric vehicle (EV) over a petrol vehicle. This sentiment is more prevalent in Germany and Spain, where nearly half of new-car buyers (45%) expect the cost to be either lower than or the same as a new petrol vehicle compared with 31% in the UK, 30% in Italy and 16% in France.

This is one of the key findings of data analytics and market advisory firm Escalent’s annual EVForward Europe study, which annually surveys more than 10,000 consumers across France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom who intend to buy a car in the next five years.

Despite the majority of EV car owners being happy overall with their experience, the EV sector is seen increasingly as a work in progress. Fewer people this year, 36%, compared with 42% in the 2022 study, feel that EVs are the future. This weakening of positive sentiment about EVs as the future is particularly evident in Spain, Italy and France. The dominant perception of EVs by 40% of Europeans now is that it is an interesting idea. 

Further, purchase price is one of the top four factors that 41% of new-car buyers consider most important when purchasing their next vehicle, with environmental benefits being the top reason for more than 20% of buyers. Driving range is the most prominent barrier, with 16% of Europeans claiming it is the top reason for not buying an EV. 

“The EV market in Europe needs a bit of a recharge,” said Mark Carpenter, managing director of Escalent UK. “The lack of visible improvement in EV charging infrastructure, ‘range anxiety’ and concern about the premium price, which was further highlighted with Tesla’s price cut, have dampened consumer opinion that EVs are the way forward in the future.” 

Other key highlights from the study include:

  • New-car buyers are establishing their own plan B, with second petrol cars acting as a backup while the EV market stalls. The petrol safety net continues to be a prime motivator for buyers of EV vehicles, particularly when it comes to longer trips. Sixty-three percent claim that having the option to use petrol when charging is not available is their prime reason for buying. Until EVs look like a fully credible proposition, there is a danger that plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is seen as a destination rather than a way point en route to EV adoption. 
  • EV car owners claim EV ownership expectations were exceeded, yet one in four of these owners says they would not buy another EV as their next vehicle. A significant majority of EV owners (67%) have found their ownership experience to have surpassed their expectations, with 74% confirming their next vehicle would again be an EV. However, this leaves one in four of these owners who would not buy another EV due to concerns about installing at-home charging. This is an opportunity for OEMs to provide support behind the vehicle sale to facilitate wall box charger installation. 
  • EV familiarity increases while positive opinion declines. Greater familiarity with EVs has not necessarily translated into positive sentiment. Twice as many people have experienced driving an EV in 2023 (14%) compared with 2021 (8%), yet positivity towards EVs has declined. Only 32% of new-car buyers hold a positive opinion about EVs (compared with 35% in 2022), while a higher percentage now holds a negative opinion (24% vs. 20% in 2022). 
  • More realistic expectations on range. Driving range is the top barrier to buying an EV. People are also more realistic about how far they can drive their EVs in 2023, presumably as more owners talk about the practicalities of driving distance before they need to charge. This is particularly evident amongst new-car buyers ages 31 to 40 years, most of whom had an expectation of more than 625 km in 2022 before they would consider buying an EV. This is now a more realistic 550 km. 
  • Younger car buyers are more inclined towards EVs and new EV brands. Positivity towards EVs is much higher for people ages 18 to 30 years—49% say they have changed their opinion to be more positive in the last year compared with 26% of people older than 66 years. Furthermore, younger car buyers are more open to considering new EV brands, with 21% saying they strongly prefer new EV brands compared with 7% of people over 55 years and older.

“These results pose challenges for the mainstream adoption of EVs and indicate that EV buyers would benefit from more support than they currently receive from their EV brands,” continued Carpenter. “Gone are the days when a car purchase was a one-off transaction every few years at best. There is a great opportunity for brands to play the role of ‘trusted advisor’ throughout the EV ownership experience.”