The electrification of vehicles, especially the most popular large, fuel-intensive light trucks and SUVs, has become a central part of US efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change.By Tina Bellon
While most Americans expect electric vehicles to dominate the country’s roads at some point, many have viewed the first battery-powered models with skepticism and expressed concerns about the potential cost and inconvenience of owning such vehicles, a Reuters / Ipsos poll found.
Car makers have already recognized the challenge and plan to bring future battery-powered models to market by promoting their performance and long-term cost savings versus environmental benefits.
Vehicle manufacturers need to attract more rural Americans and Republicans, with the survey showing that these groups are less enthusiastic about electric vehicles than others.
The electrification of vehicles, especially the most popular large, fuel-intensive light trucks and SUVs, has become a central part of US efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change. In the national Reuters / Ipsos poll of around 1,005 adults from June 3-4, 67% of all respondents agreed in a bipartisan consensus that pickup trucks are the American way of life, which is the focus on electrifying these vehicles to achieve the Underlines climate goals.
Rural consumers in so-called red states or republican strongholds are a key demographic for pickup trucks, the most profitable vehicle segment in the auto industry, and challenge automakers to embrace an electric future without alienating these customers.
Several automakers, including Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co, plan to bring all-electric trucks to market in the coming years. But there is still no such thing as an electric pickup truck, which means that consumers’ attitudes towards them are largely based on second-hand knowledge.
A majority of 65 percent agreed that electric vehicles are the future of the auto industry, the survey found. While there have been clear divisions along the party lines – 53% of Republicans agreed compared with 78% of Democrats – the issue is less partisan than other controversial political issues in the US.
Almost half of Americans – 46% – believe electric vehicles are not worth the cost, the survey found, with opinions again reflecting a political divide. Electric vehicles have a higher sticker price than comparable gasoline models, mainly due to expensive batteries.
When asked to buy a new truck, few said they were looking for a truck that would minimize its environmental impact. 38 percent said they would first look for an efficient truck that costs less to run. Another 34% said they wanted a durable truck, and only about 19% said they wanted a green truck.
Jim Richman, an Austin, Texas window builder who owns a 2018 Ford F-150, said he was also concerned about the reliability of electric trucks and the hassle of charging them.
“I just want to know that my truck is always ready whenever I need it, and for long journeys,” said Richman, echoing the opinion of a majority of respondents who said that electric vehicles are generally impractical because of their charging needs .
The auto industry is trying to alleviate these concerns with technological innovations, including lower battery costs and longer ranges.
GM, which plans to start selling an all-electric version of its Hummer pickup truck by the end of next year, said more consumers will consider electric vehicles as they become familiar with battery-powered vehicles. GM is also trying to highlight the economic benefits of electric propulsion.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to help consumers understand that the benefits of electric driving are not just related to the environmental benefits, but also to the performance and capabilities that electric vehicles deliver,” said Darryll Harrison, a GM spokesman.
Researchers expect electric cars to reach price parity with their fuel-powered counterparts by 2030, and electric cars also offer long-term cost savings due to lower maintenance costs and the lower cost per mile of using electricity instead of gasoline.
Ford said its research has shown consumer demand for an electric truck, especially among younger truck owners. The company plans to launch its all-electric F-150 Lightning Truck next year, for which it has received around 100,000 reservations to date.
“By 2030, we expect 40% of our global mix to be all-electric, and we’ll do that by electrifying our most popular nameplates,” said Darren Palmer, Ford’s North America EV general manager.
Chris Sherman, general manager of a Ford dealership in rural Paris, Texas, said he had been surprised by the positive response to the Lightning so far.
“These are pretty much die-hard gasoline and diesel pickup truck owners,” Sherman said. “A lot of the people here are workers and pull trailers. They want to know how much work they can do with their truck every day.”
Sherman said he has received 10 reservations for the electric truck so far and that he has up to 40 calls a day about it.
The Reuters / Ipsos survey was conducted online in English across the United States. Responses were collected from 1,005 adults, and the results have a confidence interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.