Americans remain super skeptical of EVs, self-driving cars

JD Power's latest survey shows confidence in both electric cars and self-driving technology started to fall even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
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Americans aren't plugged into the idea of EVs or autonomous cars just yet.

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If JD Power's latest snapshot of America and Canada's feelings toward self-driving cars and electric vehicles is any indication, automakers have a long road ahead.

The latest data, released Tuesday, shows confidence in self-driving technology decreased for the first time since JD Power started measuring and remains stalled for EVs. On a 100 point index scale, self-driving confidence fell from 36 to 35 among Americans and EVs held steady at 55. Confidence in EVs fell from 59 to 57 and self-driving car confidence slipped from 39 to 36 in Canada.

What might worry automakers more is the fact this data comes from before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early March. Automated and EV tech is mighty expensive to develop, and if consumers aren't even close to embracing it on a wide scale, JD Power believes it will mean a rough road ahead for automakers.

"They're pushing forward with technology that consumers seem to have little interest in," Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human machine interface research at JD Power said. "Nor are they making the strides needed to change people's minds. Especially now, automakers need to reevaluate where they're spending money. They are investing billions in these technologies but they need to also invest in educating consumers."

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The vast majority of Americans (67%) don't believe self-driving technology is ready, nor do they think society is ready to integrate it. Experts included in the study even believe we could see a shift away from shared transportation with consumers focused on personal vehicles again as a result of COVID-19. Many companies focused on shared mobility as a way to redefine transportation in the future. What might receive more focus are self-driving delivery services to minimize contact with other people.

When it comes to battery-electric vehicles, a whopping 70% of American respondents said they'd ever even sat in an EV and 30% know "nothing about them." Snapshot responses indicate there's a major education gap in understanding battery technology and serious concerns about what becomes of the batteries after their usefulness. And even those who own an EV aren't guaranteed repeat buyers. JD Power said some respondents declared they wouldn't purchase another due to "limited range" or "performance in extreme weather."

That's... not the best outlook as so many automakers shift to develop more EVs. Clearly, the segment isn't a "build it and they will come" sort of ordeal. Instead, automakers will truly need to show consumers why EVs make more sense if they want buyers to cozy up to the idea.

Watch this: See the electric trucks that want to steal the show from electric cars