Here’s a pop quiz for you. Who drives more around the Toronto region – the average electric vehicle (EV) owner or the average gasoline-powered car owner? If you guessed the latter, you’re wrong. But don’t worry, you’re not alone – I did too.

Last week, Plug ‘n Drive launched a TAF-funded report titled Driving EV Uptake in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. It’s based on survey of 1,000 gasoline-powered car owners and almost 200 EV owners across the GTHA that explored the behaviours, perceptions and beliefs that shape local consumers’ car purchasing decisions. These insights are needed as the Ontario government aims to increase the share of EVs to 5 per cent of new car sales by 2020. Here are some of the key recommendations that emerged from the survey:

Tackle the myths behind ‘range anxiety’: The fear of running out of battery power – also called ‘range anxiety’ – was commonly cited by gasoline-powered car owners as a reason for not purchasing an EV. However, surveyed EV owners reported traveling farther and more frequently than gas car owners – for both work and leisure. Government and industry efforts are needed to promote the fact that an EV’s travel range is more than enough to meet the daily demands of most GTHA drivers – and that one weekly charge is sufficient for the average driver.

Get the word out about EV incentives: Many gasoline-powered car owners perceive EVs as too expensive, but few know that Ontario offers generous EV purchase incentives of up to $14,000 which make them much more cost-competitive. The report recommends that the Ontario government and vehicle manufacturers collaborate on a coordinated campaign to raise public awareness of available purchase incentives.

Emphasize the long-term cost savings from EVs: In addition to significant purchase incentives, EV drivers save an average of $1,900 per year in operational costs compared to gasoline-powered car owners. Most non-EV owners are unaware of these savings. Government and industry should undertake an awareness campaign that emphasizes the “total cost of ownership” – a figure that includes purchase price, fuel costs and maintenance over the entire ownership period of a vehicle.

Connect car choice and climate change: Almost half of the gasoline-powered car owners surveyed do not believe that a worldwide switch to EVs would help to mitigate climate change, when in fact the decarbonization of personal transportation would have a substantial impact on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Future awareness campaigns need to emphasize the importance of an individual’s car-buying choice in addressing climate change.

Make EV infrastructure a priority: Surveyed EV drivers lamented the lack of public charging stations and EV-designated parking spots. Likewise, few condos and workplaces offer EV charging stations. To address these gaps, developers, employers and all levels of government should prioritize the expansion of EV charging infrastructure. This point was reinforced by Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca at the EV 2017 Conference and Trade Show held last week in Markham.

Recruit EV ambassadors: Most EV owners bought their first EV after being introduced to one by a peer. EV owners are overwhelmingly satisfied with their choice and make effective EV ambassadors. Manufacturers and dealers should leverage peer-to-peer consultation and information sharing, combined with an incentivized referral program.

As a next step, Plug ‘n Drive will be meeting with key decision-makers from industry, government and civil society to share recommendations from its report and promote their implementation. Plug ‘n Drive is also stepping up its own efforts to address some of the key misperceptions around EVs through its recently-launched Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre. The Centre provides a unique experiential learning environment where visitors can learn about the economic, performance and climate benefits of EVs and can test drive models from leading manufacturers in a no-pressure environment.

The full Plug ‘n Drive report is available here and the news release is available here.