Women buy 62% of all new cars sold in the US – except when it comes to electric vehicles. On that front, we lag dramatically behind men, purchasing only 32% of the EVs sold. What’s holding us back from becoming the driving force behind EVs? And, why does it matter?
Let’s answer the second question first. It matters because transportation fueled by the oil and gas industry is the largest contributor of the carbon emissions that cause climate change. EVs – both all-electric and the plug-ins that cover the first 20-40 miles with electricity before switching to gas – can drastically reduce how much carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.
It also matters because we could be using our massive consumer clout to motivate car companies to manufacture cars women actually want to drive. Not only do we buy almost two-thirds of all cars, but we influence 85% of all car purchasing decisions. Shifting our spending to EVs wouldn’t just help slow down climate change. It would show automakers that, rather than ignore what women need in a car (see below), they’d do well to design and produce for female buyers.
This is also a pivotal moment to secure climate justice for impacted communities. In fact, African Americans and Latinos are more concerned about climate impacts than any other demographic. And according to a Dame article written by Moms Clean Air Force’s Heather McTeer Toney:
“African American buying power in the U.S. continues to increase, and we are anything if not loyal to a brand. Racial equity matters to us, and we will spend our dollars accordingly. The 2020 Nielsen report showed that, despite COVID-19, African Americans did 11% more shopping online than the average household, are three times as likely to show support of their favorite brands on a social media platform, and expect those brands to take a stance on issues including the planet, social justice, and wellness. To top it off, it is estimated that between 2020 and 2060, African Americans will add more than 20% to the total U.S. population growth. In other words, Black folks are carrying a whole lot of untapped leverage, and the environmental industry would be wise to take note. The EV movement could benefit from a little “soul” power, which is exactly what Tesla is giving.”
Given our clout, and how much communities of color want to reduce climate change, why aren’t more of us buying EVs?
Here are the top reasons:
- “Range Anxiety” and Charging Concerns
The fuel for an all-electric vehicle – one that runs only on the electricity stored in the car’s battery – comes from an electrical outlet, rather than a gas pump. Early all-electric vehicles didn’t cover enough distance before using up all their electricity, leading some people to worry that they’d run out of power before arriving at their destination and have nowhere to recharge. The thought of having to stop en route to plug in and then wait for what could be an hour or more to recharge, turned off busy moms and single women.
- Budget Issues
Women are budget-conscious shoppers. Early EVs seemed more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Even though prices have dropped a lot and tax rebates help lower the purchase price, questions about price persist.
- Adequate Cargo Space
While men are more likely to buy a sporty coupe or an F-150 truck, women often opt for a vehicle that can accommodate kids, car seats, sports gear, backpacks, and maybe the family Fido. Until recently, EVs just weren’t spacious enough for most moms.
- Too Few Options
Initially, electric vehicles were primarily available in the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla. The Leaf was often too small to meet women’s many needs, and the Tesla too expensive.
- Car Shopping Isn’t Fun
The automotive world is notoriously male-oriented. Women complain about being ignored or disdained when buying a car, especially if they’re shopping with a man.
Here’s how I dealt with these issues:
Having just leased a plug-in EV myself, I am happy to report that the industry is doing better addressing these problems.
For example, most all-electric vehicles now have a range of at least 100 miles on a fully charged battery, with some, such as the Tesla Model 3 Standard and the Chevy Bolt getting more than 250 miles per charge, and the Tesla Model 3 Long Range and the Ford Mustang getting more than 300.
Thousands of charging stations have been installed, and thousands more will be under the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan. For day-to-day driving that averages 25.9 miles per day (and probably less for people who work at home), plug-in EVs can easily cover that distance on one charge.
As for the charging itself, a plug-in hybrid requires no special equipment. I plug mine into a 120-volt outdoor socket overnight, and it’s ready to go in the morning. All electric vehicles can be quickly “super charged” at nearby stations or a charger you install at home, or you can plug them into a 240-volt outlet at home for a few hours.
Cost barriers can be overcome too. Dealers seem willing to negotiate price. Federal and state tax credits and rebates, gas savings, and free maintenance contracts also make EVs highly affordable. And if you’re willing to spring for the extra cost of a sunroof or special sound system, why not an EV?
If cargo space is a concern, there’s finally a plug-in minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica. Several popular crossover SUVs come in electric plug-in models too. This helpful chart compares almost 60 all-electric and plug-in models, a number that will only grow as more and more manufacturers declare that, in the not too distant future, they’ll only be making EVs.
More appealing options will emerge as more women not only purchase EVs, but help design and engineer them too. To that end, WomenOfEvs.com is organizing women working in the EV industry who will lead and grow EV adoption rapidly.
Finally, as for dealing with sexist sales agents when you do go for a test drive, here’s my trick: I don’t take a man with me.