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Interest in EVs is Dropping, AutoTrader Survey Shows

Despite the launch of several new electric vehicle (EV) models across a wide range of segments and price points, the push for widespread adoption has stalled with consumers, according to a recent survey from AutoTrader, which has revealed that interest in EVs has dropped for a second year in a row.

Interest in EVs Drops in Canada

While buyers who are open to buying an EV continue to cite fuel cost savings, environmentally friendliness, and low maintenance as the primary motivators, a recent AutoTrader survey shows there are still large obstacles to overcome to get Canadians to go all-in on EVs.

“Overall, while almost half of non-EV owners are open to buying an EV for their next vehicle, interest in EVs has declined for the second year in a row, from 68 per cent in 2022 to 56 per cent in 2023,” says Tiffany Ding, Director of Insights and Intelligence at AutoTrader.

The survey also found that the top contributing factors among Canadians who don’t intend to purchase EVs include limited travel range/distance, inadequate availability of charging stations, higher purchasing costs, and the belief that EVs are unsuitable for cold weather.

AutoTrader data shows a direct correlation to gas prices and EV interest, and since gas prices have normalized from their peak in 2022, EV interest has also dropped. Macroeconomic factors like high interest rates and inflation have also made it harder for many Canadians to afford the price premium EVs demand over their gas-powered counterparts.

Time to Shine for PHEVs

Although interest in purely electric vehicles is waning, AutoTrader data shows that car buyers seem to be more interested in having the convenience of a gas engine that can also benefit from some form of electrification. Purchase consideration for traditional gas-electric hybrids (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) has been increasing. Accordingly, 62 per cent (up from 52 per cent in 2023) of EV intenders would consider buying an HEV, and 60 per cent (up from 54 per cent in 2023) would consider buying a PHEV.

Ding also mentioned that this year’s AutoTrader survey examined consumer sentiments about the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Over 75 per cent of respondents are aware of the federal government’s ZEV mandate, which requires all new light-duty vehicles sold in Canada to be zero-emission by 2035. However, they also believe it’s “unlikely” that Canada will be able to meet the federal government’s ZEV target due to the current inadequate charging infrastructure or a change in political power that could revoke or amend the ZEV mandate timeline.

New and Used EV Prices Are Dropping

As the Canadian car market recovers and an increase in overall vehicle inventory drives prices down, Canadians who are currently in the market for an EV will be able to buy one at a competitive price compared to previous years, AutoTrader data shows.

According to the survey, the average price of a new EV vehicle declined in 2023, down 17.6 per cent year over year (YoY). On the used car side, pricing also dropped 11.4 per cent YoY. The supply of EVs is also increasing. EV and hybrid inventory has surged by 145 per cent, with new vehicle growth nationwide experiencing a staggering 522 per cent increase, and used EV/hybrid inventory is up 43.5 per cent.

“Looking at the inventory levels, new battery electric vehicle (BEV) availability has been skyrocketing as more OEMs manufacture EVs,” says Baris Akyurek, AutoTrader’s Vice President of Insights and Intelligence.

That’s good news for consumers because the drop in purchasing intentions and increased supply and inventory combined with dropping prices should make it easier for buyers who are on the fence about buying an EV to make the switch.

Education is Essential to Improving Adoption

Looking for ways for Canadian drivers to be more optimistic about “going greener,” the AutoTrader experts feel several initiatives should be addressed.

First, delivering more education for car shoppers is crucial to addressing misconceptions, and alleviating perceived pain points associated with EVs. Raising awareness about advancements in EV technology (such as faster Level 2 onboard chargers and vehicle-to-home energy bidirectionality) can empower consumers to make informed decisions.

Second, the creation of a privately funded public charging infrastructure is crucial to supporting the widespread adoption of EVs in Canada. This will allow consumers to be more confident in their ability to use EVs for their daily transportation, moving beyond the early adopters.

Finally, EVs must become more convenient and affordable to own. This should include pricing initiatives, improving the charging infrastructure, and promoting EV ownership benefits through targeted education campaigns.