Four in Five Europeans Are Open to Battery Electric Vehicles—But What Will It Take to Get Them to Actually Buy One?

October 26, 2021

Escalent EVForwardTM segmentation shows high degree of interest, low likelihood of adoption among car shoppers in five most populous European countries

More than four in five (81%) new-car buyers in Europe are open to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). However, just 12% of shoppers expect to purchase a BEV as their next car—a clear indicator that automakers have significant gaps to close to increase BEV adoption rates. The complex interactions of attitudes, values, and household and charging circumstances in Europe dictate that those gaps are diverse in nature, ranging from product offerings to education and support.

Those are the findings of EVForwardTM, the largest, most comprehensive study of the next generation of buyers of electric vehicles (EVs)—including BEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles—in the United States and Europe. The dedicated platform was developed in 2019 by Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm with extensive experience counseling the world’s largest automotive companies.

Using the study’s findings, the EVForward team developed six unique EV buyer personas. Escalent evaluated each group’s attitudes, living circumstances, vehicle ownership and usage characteristics to position these personas on a spectrum of EV adoption likelihood. While some hurdles to adoption are common across all personas, other gaps are more specific to an individual group.

“Most new car buyers across the five largest European markets will engage with the idea of electric vehicles, but EV adoption rates have remained below 15% for the first half of 2021 and our research shows there is no single change that will dramatically improve near-term adoption,” said Mike Dovorany, Automotive & Mobility vice president at Escalent and head of EVForward. “Critically, automakers must recognize the spectrum of barriers that exist for different potential EV buyers—many of which extend beyond the vehicle itself. For example, perceived ease of home charging correlates strongly with EV intention.”

The study offers a snapshot of key sentiments regarding EVs, demonstrating the main issues automakers must address to begin closing the interest-adoption gap:

  • Driving range, long-term battery life/replacement cost concerns and charging speed top the list of barriers to adoption among all EV shoppers, whereas the difference in price of a new EV compared with a traditional, petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle does not fall within the top five.
  • Only 15% of shoppers plan to use public charging exclusively for their EV, while the remaining 85% see a heavy role for home charging.
  • Nearly half of all consumers are unaware of any public charging points along their normal driving routes.
  • Tesla does not hold the same brand opinion advantage in Europe as it does in the United States, with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen each falling very closely behind and showing the potential to overtake the upstart automaker.

“EVForward illustrates that strategies to drive BEV adoption cannot rely on a template based on current BEV owners,” said Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s office in Surrey, UK. “The small minority of early adopters are in so many ways very different from the majority that now make up the target market for BEVs. It is also clear from our findings that a one-size-fits-all strategy within or across countries will not deliver the required adoption levels, as Europe presents a diverse and complex set of challenges.”

To learn more, join Mike Dovorany and Mark Carpenter for a webinar titled “EVForward: Meet the Next Generation of EV Buyers in Europe” on Wednesday, November 10 from 10:00 am to 10:45 am ET (4:00 pm to 4:45 pm CET) The hosts will offer a closer look at likely EV shoppers, including how they differ from early adopters, what country-specific factors come into play and which buyers are 15.5 times more likely to seriously consider an EV as their next vehicle.

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About EVForward™

The EVForward Europe study was conducted across five European countries: United Kingdom (n=1,926), Germany (n=1,947), France (n=1,667), Italy (n=1,866) and Spain (n=1,846). It was a market-representative sample of 9,252 respondents and included a survey that fielded between April 23 and June 7, 2021. These respondents are aged 18 to 80 with a primary vehicle model 2015 or newer and are planning to purchase a new vehicle within the next five years. Data were weighted by age and gender to match the demographics of the new-vehicle buyer population and by vehicle segment to match current vehicle sales. The sample for this research comes from an opt-in, online panel. As such, any reported margins of error or significance tests are estimated and rely on the same statistical assumptions as data collected from a random probability sample. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

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