Organizations throughout the country are working to promote EVs and increase public awareness around transportation electrification in the United States. These efforts culminate every year in National Drive Electric Week, a nationwide collection of local events led by individuals and groups that highlight the benefits of EVs. The effort is organized by the Sierra Club, Plug-in America, and the Electric Auto Association and National Drive Electric Week has grown every year since it was first launched in 2011. Growing from only 29 events at the outset, 2018 marked the second year that included at least one event in all 50 states with more than 321 coordinated events including several in Canada and Mexico. This year from September 14 through 22, more than 324 events were held throughout the country and abroad.
National Drive Electric Week seeks to generate excitement around EVs and enhance driver knowledge of the developments in and benefits of the technology. EV advocates have benefitted from a growing market where, in 2018, EV sales grew by more than 80 percent and EVs accounted for an average of almost seven percent of all passenger vehicle sales in the country throughout the year. In the final three months of 2018, the record quarter for U.S. EV sales to date, EVs accounted for almost 10 percent of all passenger vehicles sold in the country. EV model availability at the state level has also increased with 28 states and Washington D.C. all offering more than 20 different models for drivers. This growth is expected to continue with the Energy Information Administration projecting that EVs will account for more than eight percent of national passenger vehicle sales by 2025.
Increasing consumer awareness is a critical first step towards realizing these EV market growth projections. This year’s National Drive Electric Week comes at a time when EV market growth has come to a halt with declining total sales for both July and August compared to 2018. Persistent gaps in consumer education and widespread concern about EV range continue to influence buyer preferences and behavior. EV advocates also point to a lack of EV-specific education at the dealership level and shortfalls in local marketing investment as key reasons behind stagnant EV awareness among customers, even in the strongest markets like California.
There is significant potential to promote EV awareness beyond the dealership level. Electric utility programs are critical resources for transportation electrification in many states, totaling more than $1.3 billion in investment in charging infrastructure, discounted rates for off-peak charging, and other efforts. Utilities are in a position to step up their investment in customer education via the above programs, but less than three percent of all approved investment is currently going towards EV awareness. Cities like Seattle are taking strides to coordinate utility investment with public programs and outreach campaigns, ensuring that increasing EV awareness is a city-wide goal organized under initiatives like the EV Shared Mobility project. These efforts have been noticed by EV advocates, and city staff members received awards from Plug In America recognizing their leadership within the EV Movement. The EV Shared Mobility team will soon be publishing resources outlining city-specific interventions undertaken through the project and highlighting lessons that could inform programs in other cities.