For electric vehicle adoption, the proverbial road has been paved over the course of the last decade: a steady trickle of new models, faster and more abundant chargers, an improvement in the technology.
Now, an increasingly enthusiastic public stands ready to greet the bevy of new models hitting the road. Morning Consult polling has found that the share of U.S. adults who say they would consider purchasing an EV in the next 10 years has seen steady growth over the course of 2021, as announcements of new models and new charging infrastructure piled up.
So 2022 could be an inflection point when it comes to actually getting drivers in EV seats, said Chris Harto, senior policy analyst for transportation and energy at Consumer Reports.
“There’s all of this pent-up demand from consumers for EVs at a reasonable price, at a reasonable range, in segments they want,” he said. “And they haven’t had that option, up until really this year.”
Consumers looking to buy an EV next year will have myriad options
While the number of electric vehicles on the market has been inching up regularly over the course of the last decade, 2022 is expected to bring an especially dramatic increase: from the roughly 62 models currently available to at least 100, according to an internal analysis from the Electric Power Research Institute.
And those new models will shift the landscape entirely, observers of the EV space say. The most significant increase will be in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, according to EPRI’s research, which make up just a small sliver of the market at present. EPRI found that EVs this year made up just over 4 percent of all the new vehicles sold in the United States, through the end of October.
Dan Bowermaster, head of EV research for EPRI, said customer choice has been a problem since EVs entered the market in a big way in 2010, given that those available have “fallen into two camps: great little five-door hatchback city cars or the more expensive luxury sedan.”
But U.S. consumers love to buy pickup trucks, crossovers and SUVs, he continued, and their arrival on the EV market is one of the main reasons 2022 could be significant for adoption.
From Harto’s vantage point, “it seems likely that those vehicles will sell as many as the automakers can produce.”
While there are some uncertainties related to global supply chain disruptions -- and especially those related to semiconductors -- a wide range of automakers plan to release new EVs in the coming year, including Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co.
And perhaps the most highly anticipated release of the bunch: Ford Motor Co. is beginning production on its F-150 Lightning pickup truck in spring 2022, giving consumers the option of purchasing an electric version of the best-selling car in the country. Ford recently said it already has nearly 200,000 pre-orders for the Lightning.
Benjamin Preston, an automotive reporter at Consumer Reports, described the market’s acceleration toward EVs as “inexorable,” given their increase in popularity in China and the European Union in recent years.
“Manufacturers don't want to be building different models for different markets anymore,” Preston said. “They want to build global platforms that they can sell everywhere, because it's cheaper and more efficient to do it that way.”
For EV makers, an increasingly warm reception from the public
This surge of new models will be greeted by a public that is increasingly receptive to them, Morning Consult’s Taking the Temperature project suggests. Half of U.S. adults (51 percent) say they are likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle in the next decade as of mid-December, up from 39 percent in January and 43 percent in March-April.
Younger Adults Most Likely to Consider an Electric Vehicle Purchase in Next 10 Years
But both hybrid vehicles and gas-powered vehicles still hold more appeal, with 61 percent and 67 percent, respectively, saying they are likely to consider those options if a car purchase is in the cards in the next 10 years. The latest data indicates that over a quarter of adults (26 percent) say they would not be likely to consider a gas-powered car.
This dovetails with recent Bloomberg Intelligence findings that EV sales are expected to eventually displace oil consumption via conventional vehicles (though sales in the Americas remain sluggish), and that oil demand could see a 21 million barrel-per-day dent by 2050 as a result.
And indeed, EVs seem to appeal especially to younger people, with Gen Zers (58 percent) and millennials (60 percent) particularly expressing interest in future electric vehicle purchases.
Morning Consult also polled adults on their more immediate interest in EVs. As of the most recent poll, 37 percent say they are likely to consider buying one if they’re in the market for a new car in the next 12 months (15 percent “very likely” and 22 percent “somewhat likely”).
For these potential consumers, 2022 will bring with it not just more model options, but more potential financing as well.
The exact shape of the EV tax credits that are being considered in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan remains to be seen, but a boost of some sort in the final version appears probable. The most recent iteration, released this month by the Senate Finance Committee, includes up to $7,500 in credits for plug-in EVs, as well as an additional $4,500 for those assembled in the United States using union labor. The latter provision has seen some pushback, including from centrist linchpin Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Whether these credits juice EV sales is an open question, given that demand for upcoming releases will likely outstrip supply in 2022, said Dan Lashof, U.S. director of the World Resources Institute.
“It may take another year beyond that for the tax credits to have their big impact,” Lashof added, “which would be pushing beyond the early adopters into the middle of the entire new car market.”
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had initially hoped that the Build Back Better Act would be finalized and passed by the end of 2021, it has been put on the backburner at least until January.