Why headlines from results of Eagleton poll don’t tell complete picture of EV interest, sales

Headlines, while attention-grabbing, often fall short of capturing the full story. This rings particularly true when dissecting consumer surveys, where interpretations can sometimes be misleading.

A case in point was a story on the recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which carried the headline, “Half of New Jerseyans oppose electric vehicles mandate, see environmental and health advantages but economic drawbacks.”

(ROI-NJ’s coverage of the poll — with a similar headline — can be found here.)

The article could just as easily be headlined, “EV interest is strong in the Garden State, with a large fraction supporting New Jersey electric vehicle mandates.” In fact, that would have been more accurate than the headline conveying weak consumer interest in electric vehicles.

We don’t have to search very hard to conclude that interest in EVs remains strong: The poll indicates that 23% of New Jersey residents polled would be somewhat likely to buy an EV, and 13% are very likely. In a state where roughly 2% of the light-duty vehicles on the road today are electric, knowing that 36% of drivers are interested in an EV for their next purchase is very good news. This confirms that New Jersey has plenty of consumer interest that will result in significant adoption of EVs on our roads over the next few years.

Remember, any poll is just a snapshot in time, representing current consumer attitudes about EVs. Perceptions are changing quickly, and EV interest will continue to grow as consumers gain more familiarity with them, a variety of more affordable makes and models enter the market, and fast-charging public infrastructure is built out. If 36% of consumers are interested in EVs now, that fraction will only grow over time.

Adding to this positive momentum is New Jersey’s proactive stance on EVs. Since 2004, New Jersey has made significant strides in promoting EVs, bolstered by state incentives and Gov. Phil Murphy’s ambitious goal of registering 330,000 electric vehicles by 2025. The state will receive almost $105 million over five years as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure initiative. The funding will play a pivotal role in developing and improving sustainable EV infrastructure within the state and is expected to further boost the already positive momentum of EV adoption in New Jersey.

The reasons for optimism are manifold. EV adoption translates into financial savings for drivers and electricity customers, coupled with substantial environmental and public health benefits. The Eagleton poll quantified these perceptions: 58% of residents recognized the positive environmental health impacts of EVs, while 51% also acknowledged the positive impacts on public health. Even on the Advanced Clean Cars II mandates, 43% expressed support, a strong showing for such a substantial policy.

Another report by the American Lung Association titled “Zeroing in on Healthy Air” underscores the positive impact of clean transportation policies like ACC II on the health of New Jersey residents. The report predicts $43.6 billion in public health savings and prevention of 3,960 premature deaths and 92,400 asthma attacks by 2050.

Why do we see a misleading headline? Such a headline does not occur in a vacuum. Much has been made recently about “declining EV sales.” While it is true that the rate of growth of EV sales has cooled somewhat of late, lower growth does not mean there isn’t strong demand. In fact, as the numbers in a recent Department of Energy “fact of the week” demonstrate, EV sales were very strong in the U.S. in 2023, with sales consistently greater each month than in the prior two years.

EV sales in the fourth quarter were nearly 30% higher than the same quarter in 2022, which would be considered exceptionally strong growth in any market. According to Atlas EV Hub, the December EV market share reached nearly 12%, an all-time EV sales record in the U.S., with over 148,000 EVs sold last December alone.

It is certainly true that the market is changing as sales shift to more mainstream consumers. However, headlines about decreasing demand are overblown. American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers is launching a seven-figure issues campaign to attack the EPA’s new fuel standards. This is just one instance of incumbent interests that have recently increased spending on spreading misinformation — distorting market realities and attempting to reverse policies that inevitably slow demand for their product.

As consumers of information, and especially in today’s environment, we all need to think critically about what we read. Especially when so much is at stake. There is much good news in the recent poll — despite headlines to the contrary. That said, there is also much work to be done to make widespread EV adoption a reality.

Pam Frank is the CEO of ChargEVC New Jersey.