EVs were supposed to be the wave of the future of transportation. In 2021, the Biden Administration said half of all cars sold in 2030 should be zero-emission. That would be about six million EVs or hybrids a year. Those ambitious plans now appear unlikely to materialize. A recent study shows that in California, the American capital of EV adoption, about one-fifth of EV owners no longer own or drive their cars and have returned to vehicles with gas-powered engines.
Nature Energy published a paper titled “Understanding discontinuance among California’s electric vehicle owners.” Scholars use the term “discontinuance.” It means to sell, trade-in, or dump. Discontinuance of EVs also means car companies have lost a critically important customer. This is the kind of churn companies like Netflix worry about. When a customer cancels, that customer needs to be replaced. Additionally, a new customer has to be found to show growth. A 20% attrition rate is staggeringly high. If this continues, it will be a miracle that the EV industry will grow at all..
The data for the research was collected via five questionnaires. The results were that 20% of plug-in hybrid owners and 18% of EV owners “discontinuanced” their cars. The primary reason given was that battery charging was inconvenient. Several other studies have shown that EV adoption has been undermined by the number of charging stations, battery range, and length of charging. Gas-powered cars are familiar to drivers. There are 140,000 gas stations in America. It takes a few minutes to fill a gas tank. The average price of a gallon of regular gas is below $3 in most states.
The EV industry in the US has been in reverse for the last several months. Ford recently said it would delay $12 billion of EV production and development expenses. GM blamed poor EV sales on a lack of demand. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said investors should expect only modest sales increases in 2024. Tesla’s unit sales in 2023 were 1.81 million, up by 35% over 2022.
Toyota’s chairman recently said he did not see an EV future for his industry. To fulfill consumer demand, car companies would need to offer EVs, gas-powered cars, others that are hydrogen-powered, and still others that are hybrids.
The consumer wants many options, only one of which is an EV.