Two-thirds of survey respondents have never been in an EV, nearly 30 per cent couldn’t name an EV model and almost 80 per cent want data on EV reliability in Canadian climates before purchasing according to a Natural Resources Canada poll
A Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) survey released this week polled 3,449 Canadians to assess public confidence, awareness and education about electric vehicles (EVs).
The survey, Canadians’ Awareness, Knowledge and Attitudes Related to Zero Emission Vehicles, found Canadians have “mixed views” and a lack of knowledge about electric vehicles, with 66 per cent having never driven or been a passenger in an EV.
“The statistic is a strong indicator of the opportunity and need to make EVs more readily available for Canadians to touch, feel and experience,” says Thierry Spiess, senior manager of the advanced vehicle unit at NRCan, in response to emailed questions from Electric Autonomy Canada.
While the survey found that 51 per cent of respondents have considered buying or leasing an electric vehicle, just 14 per cent of those have actually shopped for one. Less than half — 49 per cent — of survey respondents were aware that they could charge an EV at home.
“In the case of buying a ZEV, not only are we encouraging Canadians to spend a sizeable amount of money, we are asking them to spend it on an advanced technology that many of them know very little about,” says Spiess. (The majority of survey respondents — 63 per cent — feel EVs are still too expensive.)
“We need to spread ZEV awareness and education across the country and support initiatives that aim to get that two-thirds exposed to ZEVs. That’s a big challenge.”
The poll is intended to benchmark consumer perspectives and measure the effectiveness of the almost $1 billion spent by Canadian governments on ZEV adoption. It will be conducted bi-annually to track ZEV adoption progress and identify ongoing roadblocks.
NRCan studies knowledge gaps about EVs
Canada is targeting 100 per cent new ZEV sales by 2035. The NRCan poll demonstrates that meeting this ambitious goal will require significant public outreach about EVs.
“Governments, ENGOs, academia and automakers need to continue to work together to build public confidence, through hands-on exposure and providing the types of decision-making information and support that Canadians need,” Spiess says.
For example, the federal government offers a $5,000 rebate to eligible EV buyers — along with rebates in six provinces and two territories. But the survey found limited awareness of these programs, with 53 per cent of respondents unaware of the rebates (only 28 per cent indicated familiarity with specific rebates). Of those who know about the rebates, 64 per cent are unsure how to apply. Encouragingly, 69 per cent of respondents say they support purchase rebates.
Seventy-one per cent of respondents say they rely on the internet for information about EVs. Just 41 per cent say they go to a dealership to answer their questions.
“Some people may feel intimidated about what they may experience in the shopping and purchasing process: for example, do they know enough to ask the right questions, or will they understand the information that the salesperson provides them,” says Chris Frye, senior advisor at NRCan, in response to questions from Electric Autonomy.
One of the most pressing areas of information Canadians want is winter performance data for EVs. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents say they want to see results of EV reliability testing conducted in Canada’s winter conditions.
Making EVs mainstream
NRCan’s survey pointed to demographic knowledge gaps about EVs across Canada.
“Canadians are incredibly diverse, and our ZEV confidence-building efforts need to acknowledge and reflect that diversity,” Spiess says. “Our efforts need to not only speak to Canadians of different age groups, but also geographic location, language, gender and ethnic background.”
Women are less likely to buy an EV and are less aware of EV features. Only 33 per cent of women respondents were familiar with range and charging at home compared to 60 per cent of men. But 68 per cent of men felt EVs are too expensive, compared to 59 per cent of women.
Canadians under 35 are most interested in test driving an EV. Those who make less than $40,000 per year or do not have any higher education are the least likely to have any direct experience with an EV.
People earning $150,000 or more (37 per cent) and university graduates (32 per cent) say they will “definitely” consider an EV for their next vehicle.
“Our job in the next few years is to continue to rapidly normalize ZEVs, so that the ‘electric’ part of the equation isn’t the main decision point,” says Spiess.