Study:EV Owners Satisfied with EV Experience, Seek More Choices

Jack R. Nerad | Jan 22, 2021

Electric vehicle owners are loyal to the idea of having an EV in their garage. They are less loyal about what brand that EV is. Those are two key findings of the J.D. Power U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study. The study, conducted in October and November 2020 in concert with PlugShare, an EV driver app maker and research firm, surveyed 9,632 owners of 2015-2021 model year battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs.)

Person Plugging In Electric Vehicle

"EV owners show significantly more loyalty to EVs as a technology than to a particular brand," Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said. "When the owner satisfaction with the vehicle is high, the intended loyalty to that brand is certainly high as well, but loyalty to the technology is much higher than to the brand."

Tesla Model S Leads Model Rankings - Find the best car deals!

In terms of individual vehicle models' rankings, the Tesla Model S ranks highest overall and highest in the premium battery electric vehicle (BEV) segment with an index score of 798 (out of 1,000). The Tesla Model 3 (790) ranks second, and those two models were the only ones of the six surveyed to surpass average satisfaction in the premium segment, which stands at 782.

Among mass-market models, the Kia Niro EV ranks highest in the BEV segment with a score of 782. The Chevrolet Bolt EV (745) ranks second, and the Hyundai Kona Electric (743) ranks third. The average satisfaction in the mass market segment is 730. Two surveyed vehicles — the Nissan Leaf (712) and Volkswagen eGolf (696) — were under the segment average and rounded out the vehicles surveyed.

The overall EVX ownership index score measures electric vehicle owners' satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale. It considers seven factors: accuracy of stated battery range, availability of public charging stations, battery range, cost of ownership, driving enjoyment, ease of charging at home, and vehicle quality and reliability.

Range Remains of Paramount Concern - Find the best car deals!

Among the factors involved in satisfaction with EVs, range — the distance the vehicle can travel on a full charge before recharging — is critical. 

When deciding which electric vehicle to buy, consumers' most-often-cited factor is battery and driving range, the study found. After the purchase, the range is a critical element affecting satisfaction with the ownership experience. In both premium and mass-market segments, the accuracy of the stated battery range and actual battery range experienced by the owner account for about 20% of owners' overall satisfaction. 

"Even though most owners drive less than the stated range of their vehicle's battery, they still want to know that the actual battery range is close to the stated battery range," Gruber said. "It's still about peace of mind." 

Another factor that can affect "range anxiety," the availability of public charging infrastructure, is a key determinant of EV owners' satisfaction. Satisfaction among owners of premium BEVs offering the availability of public charging is 235 points higher than among owners of mass-market BEVs that typically don't. This finding is mainly due to Tesla owners' higher satisfaction with the Tesla public charging network. The existence and effectiveness of that network also have a marked effect on intended loyalty.

"Tesla has higher intended loyalty than others," Gruber said, "and the strong charging network they offer aids in loyalty to the brand. As individual brands try to move forward, part of their success will depend on EV infrastructure, and part will be products that meet the needs of consumers."

Premium Buyers Want Cost Savings - Find the best car deals!

Gruber said among the most surprising of the study's findings was the degree to which premium EV owners were concerned about their EV's operating costs versus the operating costs of a conventional internal combustion engine-powered car. 

"It was surprising how important the cost equation is, especially to premium EV owners," Gruber said. "Of course, the mass market owner is looking for lower operating costs, but the premium buyer expects lower running costs as an important [EV] benefit. They are very concerned about the cost equation, and that was surprising to me. They are concerned about saving money on routine maintenance as well."

Summary - Find the best car deals!

The EV market is still in its infancy in the United States, and consumer satisfaction reflects that. EV owners like EVs, and most intend to buy another. Whether that EV will be a model from the brand they currently own is another story. If new entrants to the market offer vehicle types that consumers seek — SUVs and trucks, for example — their opportunities for success are good. 

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