High gasoline costs are irritating many Americans and producing political headaches for President Joe Biden’s administration, but they may also be hastening the country’s shift to more widespread usage of renewable energy vehicles, particularly electricity.
Experts say that when gas costs rise, sales of EVs (electric vehicles), rise as well, though they caution that it’s impossible to draw a straight line from gas prices to car purchases. According to AAA data, the average price per gallon of normal gasoline in the United States climbed to $4.99 on June 10. Pump prices in 13 states have already surpassed $5 a gallon this week.
The psychological barrier is as follows: While $5 isn’t the highest inflation-adjusted cost Americans ever have paid for gas, it will be the largest amount many US drivers have ever seen on a gas station sign.
Many Americans appear to be researching electric automobiles as a result of gas price sticker shock. Since the beginning of May, Google searches for “electric car” in the United States have increased by half, and searches for “EV” have increased by a third.
The public’s knowledge of electric vehicles has never been stronger in the United States. Automakers are significantly spending on building new electric car and truck lines, as well as heavily advertising their electric models, particularly in high-profile Super Bowl commercials. “With things like price shock at the pump, it really makes people explore [converting to an EV] and start getting more information about how going electric might cut their total costs,” stated Peter Slowik, who is a senior researcher for Electric Vehicles at the International Council on Clean Transportation.
“When gas prices rise, people rush to get more fuel-efficient automobiles,” noted Sara Baldwin, electrification policy director at the Energy Innovation think tank. “Given the increased availability of EVs and the increased number of models available, I foresee a similar trend in both plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles.”
If automakers can’t keep up with demand, they won’t be able to fully capitalize on rising consumer interest in electric vehicles. EVs, like the rest of the car industry, have been impacted by supply chain issues, especially outages in China.
Although the country is no longer under strict curfews, living in big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin is still far from normal. Tesla had to shut down its Shanghai gigafactory for 22 days in April before switching to a closed-loop model in which workers sleep on-site. (On June 11, workers will be permitted to go home.) Meanwhile, demand for all types of vehicles has outpaced supply. With fewer new automobiles on the market in the United States, sales are likely to drop by over 20% in May.