AAA: 20 Percent of American Drivers to Go Electric

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It appears that Elon Musk launching his Tesla into space was exactly the sort of over-the-top spectacle electric vehicles needed to gain a foothold in the American consciousness.

A recent survey by the American Automobile Association found that one in five U.S. drivers will likely be going electric the next time they purchase a car, up from one out of six in 2017.

According to Greg Bannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering, that increased enthusiasm isn't solely rooted in the usual rationale of "it's good for the planet."

"While concern for the environment is still a major motivator," said Bannon, "AAA found U.S. drivers are also attracted to the lower long-term costs and advanced technology features that many of these vehicles offer."

As technology improves, charging times will too.


Despite the increased level of "mainstream appeal" that Bannon ascribes to electric vehicles, the major points of contention for skeptical consumers remain the same.

Since a car's potential range is one of its most important qualities to a prospective buyer, questions like "how long will it run for?" and "where can I recharge?" are common, especially among more cautious older customers.

Younger drivers aren't as concerned with these details, though — Millennials are more than 15-percent less likely to express "range anxiety" than their Generation X or Baby Boomer parents, and far more willing to accept the "inevitable" electric future.

They might be less enthusiastic in their support if they looked a little closer.

Over two thirds of American drivers consider a reasonable charging time for an electric vehicle's battery to be 30 minutes or less, but even a powerful Level 2 charger won't get a car back on the road in under a few hours.

According to Megan McKernan, manager of the Automotive Research Center at the Automobile Club of Southern California, that disparity between expectation and reality will negatively impact electric vehicle sales until the technology catches up.

“Today’s drivers are accustomed to a quick fill up at the corner gas station," said Brannon, "but electric vehicle charging can sometimes take several hours.”

Slow charging times aren't the only issue. AAA's survey shows that nearly half (49 percent) of Americans unwilling to buy an electric vehicle are put off by the high cost of repairing or replacing the battery, which is less like taking a standard 12 volt out of a regular car and more like removing the engine.

An electric car's battery costs thousands of dollars to replace and doesn't last nearly as long as the internal combustion engine of a gasoline-fueled car at a similar price point.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles will hinge on the availability and speed of charging stations, which currently number around 16,000 in the United States. By contrast, there are well over 100,000 gas stations across the country and none of them take more than five minutes to fill up a compatible car. It's abundantly clear that electric cars need adequate infrastructure before they can begin to replace their older gas-powered counterparts.

"With a little planning," said Brannon, "electric vehicle owners can avoid a roadside inconvenience and, as technology improves, charging times will too.”

For a more comprehensive analysis of the environmentally-friendly vehicle industry, visit

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