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Despite the hype over electric vehicles, a new survey found 53 per cent of Canadians are unlikely to consider an EV for their next purchase, in contrast to the United States, where 59 per cent of consumers said the opposite, that they will likely consider going electric.

The findings come from market research firm J.D. Power Canada, which released its first Electric Vehicle Consideration (EVC) study on Wednesday. Respondents were asked specifically about how likely they were to consider a pure battery-electric vehicle (BEV) as their next vehicle.

“Moving past the initial hype…we’re now starting to get away from the easier sales and adoption among those who are superexcited about EVs, and trying to increase uptake among the general public,” said J.D. Ney, automotive industry practice leader for J.D. Power Canada.

The results were encouraging for EV uptake. Some 46 per cent said they are likely (22 per cent being very likely) to shop for an EV the next time out. “We do have a solid base from which to build EV adoption in this country,” Ney said.

The new Toyota bZ4x SUV is the most-considered non-premium EV in Canada, while the Tesla Model 3 is the most-considered premium one by a wide margin. However, Ney noted the Tesla’s margin is shrinking. “The days of Tesla being kind of the dominant market force among EVs could certainly well be waning,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on that as we refresh this particular study in Canada on an annual basis.”

Among Canadians who say they’re unlikely to consider an EV, six in 10 cite purchase price as a factor.

With nearly half of respondents considering an EV, the survey bodes well for the federal government’s zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) sales targets, which will require half of all new light-duty vehicles purchased in 2030 be an electric, hydrogen or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The fact the study found Canadians lag behind Americans is surprising. Ney himself expected it to be the other way around given previous J.D. Power surveys, in which Canadians were ahead in terms of high-level acceptance and awareness of EVs. The firm’s new study, however, focused on more immediate next-vehicle purchase consideration, and points to some uniquely Canadian concerns.

Among those unlikely to consider an EV, for example, 44 per cent of Canadians cited range performance in extreme temperatures as a barrier. The same issue was far less important to Americans.

Getting people to consider an EV isn’t rocket science. It’s often as simple as letting people drive one. Sixty-one per cent of people said they’d never been in an EV, but among those who had driven one, consideration roughly tripled. Of the latter group, 42 per cent would likely consider an EV.

These days, riding in an EV is easier said than done. Supply constraints and market allocation factors continue to mean long wait-lists for people looking to go electric.

“What the data suggests is that manufacturers and policy-makers in this country are going to have to work closely together to solve for some of these challenges,” Ney said.

The J.D. Power survey included responses from 3,701 people across Canada who intend to purchase a vehicle in the next 24 months, weighted to align with countrywide new-vehicle buyer demographics.

There have also been a number of other studies and surveys on EV adoption, all of them asking slightly different questions and coming up with differing results.

A KMPG survey published in February found 71 per cent of Canadians would consider purchasing a BEV the next time they buy a vehicle. A Deloitte survey from January found that only 10 per cent of Canadians would “prefer” a BEV as their next vehicle.

“Our latest polling on this with Abacus Data found that 80 per cent of Canadians were open to buying an EV,” wrote Trevor Melanson, communications director for the Clean Energy Canada think tank.

Figuring out how many people will or won’t buy an EV, when, and why not, is increasingly important and valuable information for governments, car companies, dealerships, suppliers, electricity providers, think tanks, climate experts and anyone else with an agenda or some money on the line.

In a sense though, we all have an agenda here; while it’s no silver bullet, the shift away from fossil-fuel burning vehicles will help this country and others meet greenhouse-gas emissions targets and, hopefully, stave off the more devastating effects of climate change.

J.D. Ney had one last simple message for car companies: “We need to get more Canadians into these vehicles so they can experience them for themselves, because, at the moment, that is an important driver of EV consideration.”

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