MAY 22, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Psychological Hurdles Preventing People From Buying Electric Cars

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

New research suggests that persistent cognitive and psychological barriers prevent people from purchasing electric vehicles, and that overcoming them is key to increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road.

In a recent study published in Nature Energy, a research team from the University of Geneva examined cognitive barriers that prevent people from purchasing an electric vehicle. They noted that while there have been significant gains in helping people overcome the cost and technological barriers to purchasing an electric vehicle (tax incentives, the increased presence of charging stations), there’s one psychological factor that continues to have the strongest influence on people’s decision not to purchase an electric vehicle. Specifically, people continue to have misconceptions about how long an electric vehicle battery can last.

The research team interviewed over 2,000 people in Germany and the United States to gauge their perceptions and attitudes towards electric vehicles. Participants overwhelmingly cited how long they believe a battery lasts as a reason for not purchasing an electric vehicle. Many participants believed a single charge would not meet their driving needs. 

Strategies for addressing these cognitive barriers don’t involve new cost or technological initiatives, then. The answer lies in providing accurate information to drivers about electric cars and what they do. This information needs to address the actual needs of drivers; mainly, addressing their perceived limitations of electric car batteries. 

Research shows that traditional combustion engines continue to play a major role in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a usual combustion engine passenger vehicle can create over 4 metric tons of emissions each year. Electric vehicles have emerged as a viable alternative. Despite needing electricity currently generated through sources like coal and natural gas, they overall have fewer emissions over their lifetime.

Electric vehicles are also becoming increasingly popular options. For example, the number of electric vehicles sold in 2021 was twice as many as in 2020. However, barriers continue to impact widespread adoption of these vehicles, but targeted educational campaigns may help. 

Sources: Science Daily; Nature Energy; EPA

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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