Despite lower gas prices, a new AAA study, released just days before Earth Day, reveals that consumer interest in electric vehicles remains high, with the survey showing that more than 30 million Americans are likely to buy an electric vehicle for their next car. With rising sales, longer ranges and lower costs, AAA predicts a strong future for electric vehicles, and announces the top electric, hybrid and other efficient vehicles in its independent, rigorous test-track evaluation published in the 2017 AAA Green Car Guide.
“With their lower ownership costs and compatibility with emerging autonomous technologies, electric vehicles are poised to be a key vehicle of the future,” said Pat Moody, director of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “Tesla -- a standout in AAA’s evaluations -- has helped widen the appeal of electric vehicles by showing they can be stylish, performance-focused and filled with cutting-edge technology.”
Even with gas prices that are about 40 percent lower than five years ago, AAA found that consumer interest in electric vehicles and hybrids has not waned. In fact, the number of Americans interested in an electric vehicle approaches the number planning to purchase a pickup truck, with the survey showing that 15 percent are likely to buy an electric vehicle for their next car. Millennials are even more accepting of electric vehicles, with nearly one-in-five interested in going electric for their next car.
Concern for the environment remains the primary motivating factor for electric vehicle shoppers, but AAA also found that lower long-term costs, desire for the latest technology and access to car pool lanes are all influential. With their extended range and flexibility, hybrid vehicles are also desirable to Americans, with nearly one third (32 percent) likely to buy the gasoline- and battery-powered alternative.
With a focus on the future, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center rates and ranks electric vehicles, hybrids, compressed natural gas-powered (CNG), diesels and high fuel economy gasoline-powered vehicles for the annual AAA Green Car Guide. The reviews are part of AAA’s mission to improve mobility, promote automotive safety and keep members informed about the latest automotive technology. Vehicles are rated on the criteria that matter most to car buyers, including ride quality, safety and performance.
“While desire for green vehicles is strong, making the leap to an electric, hybrid or other fuel efficient vehicles can be daunting to car shoppers,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center. “AAA’s rigorous evaluations help take the guesswork out by providing an unbiased evaluation of these vehicles based on more than a dozen individual criteria.”
Beyond electric and hybrid vehicles, AAA’s survey found that fuel economy remains a major purchase consideration for all U.S. drivers, with 70 percent rating it as an important factor in selecting any vehicle – equal to the importance of the cost, crash rating and performance – ahead of safety technology (50%), brand (48%), style, color and design (46%) and smartphone connectivity (34%).
In 2017, the following vehicles earned AAA’s Top Green Vehicle award:
Overall: Tesla Model X 75D
Subcompact: Chevy Bolt EV Premier
Compact: Volkswagen e-Golf SE
Midsize: Lexus GS 450 F Sport
Large: Tesla Model S 60
Pickup: Ford F150 XLT Super Crew
SUV: Tesla Model X 75D
Winners, detailed evaluation criteria, vehicle reviews and an in-depth analysis of the green vehicle industry can be found at www.AAA.com/greencar. The 164-page guide also can be found in local branches. AAA members who are in the market to buy a car can also get additional help through the Car Buying Service at AAA.com
While electrics are an attractive option for car shoppers, AAA found that more than half of Americans are hesitant to make the switch due to “range anxiety” – the concern over running out of charge or having too few locations to charge a vehicle. This fear persists despite the fact that U.S. drivers report an average round-trip commute length (31 miles) and time (46 minutes) that are well within the range of the more than 100 miles of range that most electric vehicles offer.
“Range anxiety stems from seeing gas stations, not charging stations, on every corner,” continued Moody. “While electric vehicles may not yet fit every lifestyle, the number of charging stations has quadrupled over the last five years and battery ranges support average commutes.”
To assist with range anxiety, drivers of electric vehicles can find the closest charging station via the AAA Mobile app or AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner. In 2017, charging station availability has grown to more than 15,000 locations across the United States.