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Continental Mobility Study 2020 finds many people still have doubts about EVs

The Continental Mobility Study 2020 shows that enthusiasm for electric cars is strong in China, while reservations still need to be overcome in Germany, France, the US and Japan. The study also shows that acceptance of electric mobility has increased in all five countries surveyed in recent years.

The Continental Mobility Study 2020, surveyed representative groups of people in France, the US, Japan, China and Germany about their mobility habits in cooperation with social research institute infas.

The main complaints about EVs cited by respondents are a lack of charging stations and the low range compared to gas or diesel vehicles.


Main arguments against all-electric cars by international comparison. Source: Continental

The majority of people in Germany (59%) cannot imagine buying an electric vehicle in the future. In France (57%) and the US (50%), at least half of the population cannot yet imagine themselves in an electric car, and the percentage in Japan is only slightly lower (46%). Compared with those surveyed in China—a large number of whom can imagine buying an all-electric car in the near future—respondents from the US are not quite as enthusiastic about it, but still have a much more positive attitude than those in Germany, France and Japan.

According to the study, many doubts about electric cars continue to persist, with a lack of charging stations being the most cited argument against electric driving in four of the five countries studied. Only in France is the price the most discouraging factor. The four main arguments of electrosceptics are evenly distributed from an international perspective: the low availability of charging stations, range anxiety, the need for charging breaks on longer journeys, and the high price when compared with cars with combustion engines.

A positive trend can still be seen overall, however: since 2013, the proportion of car owners declaring an intention to buy an all-electric car has risen significantly in the US (+28 percentage points), China (+27 percentage points) and Germany (+18 percentage points). In France (+3 percentage points) and Japan (+1 percentage point), a small increase can be observed.

According to the Continental Mobility Study 2020, the topic of charging stations is primarily an issue in metropolitan areas: in larger cities, the proportion of car owners who could potentially charge an electric car in their normal parking spot is significantly lower than in rural areas. This is particularly the case for European and Japanese cities. A lack of charging stations is cited more frequently as an argument against buying an electric car in the near future in larger cities.

In all the countries studied, policymakers attempt to steer buyers toward alternative drive systems by means of monetary and other incentives. All five countries offer purchase premiums for electric vehicles, for example. In Germany, these have been increased as part of the stimulus package to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy; in China, the premiums that were set to expire have also been extended. In Japan, policymakers are additionally targeting manufacturers and paying innovation premiums for increases in range. Charging infrastructure is also being expanded in all the countries studied.

Range anxiety is another key argument against buying an electric car in all countries—but most people can now already easily meet their daily mobility needs with an electric vehicle, since the distances that need to be covered are usually short and charging stations are becoming increasingly available at home or at work and in public spaces.

There are, however, other obstacles that cannot be overcome by technological developments alone. In Germany, a third of respondents say that they would not consider an electric car since they doubt that the technology is environmentally friendly. In France, a quarter say the same thing. The situation is entirely different in the other three countries included in the study, where the percentage of those who doubt the ecological credentials of electric cars is much lower, ranging from 11% in the US to just 1% in Japan.

Since 2011, Continental has carried out the Continental Mobility Study on various key topics at regular intervals. The Continental Mobility Study 2020 is the sixth edition of the study, which asks people in Germany, France, the US, China and Japan about various aspects of mobility. In the first stage in September 2020, a representative sample of the population was surveyed in five countries on three continents.

In addition to the expectations and attitudes regarding electric vehicles, the survey also dealt with changes in mobility against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Measures to stop the spread of the virus temporarily reduced mobility to a great extent in all of the surveyed countries as part of strict lockdowns imposed on their populations. At the same time, the behavior of many people changed, even after the measures were relaxed and mobility could largely return to normal. The findings of the survey reveal specific changes in behavior, attitudes and expectations. The Mobility Study 2020 is a joint effort between Continental and the market and social research institute infas, which has been supporting the Mobility Study since 2011.


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