EVs for everyone? Identifying the likely early majority of electric vehicle adopters

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The evolution of the BEV market, to date, reflects a number of developments, including: changing attributes of BEVs (e.g., more diverse models, greater range, nascent ability to provide backup power to homes, etc.) and their complementary charging infrastructure; alterations in consumers’ assessments of the alignment between BEVs and their preferences and travel needs; and the roll-out of new BEV-supportive policies. Considering sales volumes of BEVs to date, the U.S. has passed through the “Innovator” stage of Roger’s diffusion of innovations curve, and solidly into the “Early Adopter” market, with the “Early Majority” on the horizon. This paper attempts to bring the Early Majority into greater clarity, analyzing publicly available data to characterize its potential nature and size. We apply a framework of four related components of electric vehicle acceptance—awareness, access, approval, and adoption. The variables we examine primarily enable the “access” component of acceptance, and include characteristics of individuals and households. We also consider physical and economic/governmental aspects of the social system in which vehicle purchase decisions occur, with a focus on the spatial heterogeneity of both public charging density and laws and incentives. A key finding is that a substantial portion of U.S. households reflect a combination of apparent BEV acceptance enablers as demonstrated by the majority of current BEV adopters. We find that 46.9% of US household own a single-family home with reasonable charging capabilities, making the convenience and savings associated with BEV ownership feasible for nearly half of US households. Furthermore, 28% of those household also earn more than $100k annually, leaving them potentially well-positioned to become part of the Early Majority.

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