Consumers Continue To Be Confused About Electric Vehicles: Comparing Awareness among Canadian New Car Buyers in 2013 and 2017

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Long, Zoe & Axsen, Jonn & Kormos, Christine. (2019). Consumers continue to be confused about electric vehicles: Comparing awareness among Canadian new car buyers in 2013 and 2017. Environmental Research Letters. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab4ca1.

Date created: 
Electric vehicles
Hybrid vehicles
Consumer awareness
Consumer research

Despite policy support and technological progress, consumer adoption of electric vehicles remains limited globally. One important barrier to electric vehicle adoption may be limited consumer awareness. We investigate trends in consumer awareness, familiarity, and experience with electric vehicles by comparing cross-sectional survey responses from two representative samples of Canadian new vehicle-buyers collected in 2013 (n = 2922) and in 2017 (n = 1808). While a significantly higher proportion of 2017 respondents have 'heard of' key electric vehicle models, stated familiarity and experience are low for both samples. Further, about three-quarters of respondents in both samples are confused about the basic notion of how to refuel (or recharge) electric vehicles—and how these vehicles differ from hybrids. Conversely, over half of 2017 respondents report having seen at least one electric vehicle charger in public, which is more than double the proportion reported in the 2013 sample. These trends hold in analyses of three Canadian provinces, including two that have engaged in significant consumer outreach activities over this time frame. Overall, in contrast to expectations, our results suggest that consumer awareness remains low and stagnant, which may hinder market growth and inhibit the climate mitigation potential of electric vehicles.

Document type: 
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
Natural Resources Canada
Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions