Lower Gas Prices Haven’t Stopped People From Wanting to Buy Electric Cars

April 18, 2017, 5:36 AM UTC

The American appetite for electric vehicles hasn’t changed in the past five years, even as gas prices have fallen, according to a survey by the American Automobile Association.

The AAA consumer survey released Tuesday found that 15% of Americans are likely to buy an electric vehicle as their next car—close to the percentage of consumers who plan to buy a pickup truck instead. Among millennials, the proportion of those wanting to purchase an electric car rises to 18%, the survey says.

The findings might seem tepid. But AAA contends that they suggest a strong future for electric vehicles, because consumer interest in EVs hasn’t waned even though gas prices have fallen 40% since 2012, according to AAA.

“With their lower ownership costs and compatibility with emerging autonomous technologies, electric vehicles are poised to be a key vehicle of the future,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said in a statement.

The consumer study of 1,004 adults living in the U.S. was conducted in February. The survey was released alongside the AAA annual Green Car Guide, which named the Tesla Model X 75D as the best overall electric vehicle.

The green car guide rates and ranks electric, hybrids, compressed natural gas-powered, diesels, and high fuel economy gasoline-powered vehicles. The Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center said its evaluations were based on more than a dozen criteria, including ride quality, safety, and performance.

Tesla, which makes the luxury Model S sedan and Model X SUV, has helped widen the appeal of electric vehicles by showing they can be stylish, performance-focused, and filled with cutting-edge technology, according to Brannon.

Other winners in the AAA Green Car Guide are:

  • Chevy Bolt EV — best subcompact car
  • Volkswagen e-Golf SE — best compact car
  • Lexus GS 450h F Sport — best mid-size car
  • Tesla Model S 60 — best large car (note that Tesla discontinued the Model S 60 as of April 17; the base model is now the Model S 75)
  • Ford F150 XLT Super Crew —best pickup truck
  • Tesla Model X 75D —best SUV

And here were other notable findings in the consumer survey:

  • Millennials are even more accepting of electric vehicles, with nearly one in five of those consumers interested in going electric for their next car.
  • Concern for the environment, lower long-term costs, desire for the latest technology, and access to car pool lanes have all driven interest in electric vehicles.
  • Nearly one third (32%) of Americans are likely to buy the gasoline- and battery-powered alternative.

Despite some interest in electric vehicles, more than half of Americans are hesitant to make the switch over concerns that the vehicle’s battery will run out of charge. This range anxiety persists even though most electric vehicles have a battery range well within the average round-trip commute length of 31 miles for U.S. drivers, the AAA says.