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Electric vehicles face significant barriers for adoption across the United States

Sadia Corey VP, Client Development 24/02/2022

Several structural barriers have inhibited widespread EV adoption, despite recent initiatives across the industry on new EV choices.

Obstacles include the pace of battery technology advancement (limiting range), scarcity in charging infrastructure, higher purchase prices, and higher total cost of ownership (TCO) than ICE alternatives.

Additional barriers have also included limited consumer choices, production delays, supply chain investments lagging in key EV markets (including China and Europe), capping and phasing-out of manufacturer rebates, and incentive (and in some cases fee/taxation) frameworks that can vary significantly from state to state.

Charging Infrastructure

Top of mind for US road users in terms of barriers to considering an EV is the lack of widespread and readily available charging infrastructure. 40% of respondents indicated they believe charging infrastructure is not sufficiently developed. While somewhat

less of a concern for PHEV owners, owning a BEV requires additional consideration and route planning, especially for longer trips and in rural areas where charging infrastructure availability may be scarce.

While US charging infrastructure has grown by roughly 17% since the beginning of 2020, it still dramatically lags other major EV markets. With nearly 5 million EVs on its roads, China has over 800,000 publicly available ports yielding a ratio of 6 EVs per each public charging point. The US, by contrast, with 2,206,966 PEVs sold since 20105 has a ratio of 20 EVs per each available public charging point. Furthermore, China installed 112,000 new public charging points—more than the US installed base—in December 2020 alone.

Lastly, US charging coverage is far from uniform with highly concentrated coverage in certain regions—(California alone contains 32% of all EVSE ports in the US) and little coverage in others. Compounding the unequal distribution of public charging points, 31% of the highly sought-after DCFC ports are Tesla manufactured DCFCs and therefore exclusive to Tesla owners and not EV owners at large.


Range anxiety was the second most cited barrier to adoption with 39% of respondents believing EVs are not reliable for long distance driving. While Americans drive significantly more distance per year on average than European counterparts research has shown that 95% of trips made by Americans are less than 30 miles – well within the range of all current EVs. With current BEV models now starting at a minimum EPA range from a full charge of 110 miles (Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2 door) and eclipsing 400 miles (Tesla Model S Long Range), range anxiety may no longer be justified for most prospective EV owners. Hence, technological advancement has now likely outpaced perceptions, creating an opportunity for EV manufacturers to drive further adoption via targeted messaging addressing range anxiety and for governments seeking to accelerate curbing of CO2 emissions to increase awareness-raising campaigns and educational resources.

Total Cost of Ownership

When evaluating the actual cost of owning a new vehicle, in addition to the purchase price and associated financing costs, key running cost drivers should be considered over the lifetime of the car: fuel costs, maintenance costs, depreciation (how much the vehicle’s original value declines over the holding period) and in the case of EVs, potential tax incentives and energy rates in the region. While EVs have historically had a higher TCO on average than ICE alternatives, the difference has been shrinking steadily due to a higher concentration of competition amongst EV manufacturers and increasingly lower production costs of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs.

A 2020 study for example, found that for many makes and models, especially those in the most affordable categories, the TCO for EVs now often nets out lower than ICE alternatives over the average

vehicle lifetime (200,000 miles), with most EVs averaging savings of $6,000-$10,000 over comparable ICE alternatives. While EVs still have a higher purchase cost, average savings of $9,000 in fuel costs and $4,600 in maintenance costs serve to more than offset (with depreciation roughly comparable). Furthermore, federal tax credits up to $7,500 and additional tax incentives at the state level can reduce the TCO for EVs even further in many regions. However, it should be noted that not all states provide tax incentives, and the federal tax incentive is capped at 200,000 per manufacturer for US EVs (which Tesla and GM have surpassed). Furthermore, there are currently 26 states that impose EV-related fees, roughly half of which have rates higher than the current tax on petrol.

However, perceptions have not necessarily kept apace in the US. While saving on fuel costs was the leading factor for considering an EV (52% of respondents), TCO was the third most cited barrier to adoption, with 31% of respondents indicating EVs were too expensive to own and maintain.

To learn more about perceptions of electric vehicles across the US,  click here to download our report: US Perceptions of Electric Vehicles.

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