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What’s driving women buyers away from EVs?

“It’s a collective effort to get more women driving [EVs],” Kate Harrison, the co-founder of EV transition startup MoveEV, told Tech Brew.
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· 4 min read

When Kate Harrison drives her husband’s 2017 Tesla Model S, she notices its design, which is seemingly for taller bodies—like the seatbelt that won’t adjust comfortably for her. It’s a different story with the couple’s 2024 Tesla Model Y; Harrison says she finds it much more comfortable.

“The seat belt now adjusts, and the seat feels a little snugger on my body. I am really aware that they have redesigned that as a more universal experience instead of for men,” Harrison told Tech Brew.

Harrison—co-founder and head of marketing at EV transition startup MoveEV, which helps organizations convert their vehicle fleets to electric and reimburse employees for at-home charging—hopes to see similar progress as the automotive industry navigates a tricky transition that, at least so far, has seemed to largely leave women consumers in the dust.

Driving factors

There’s plenty of research to support the idea that men are leading EV adoption.

In the first half of 2023, men made up 67% of EV buyers, despite making up 59% of car buyers industrywide, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data cited by Edmunds. Edmunds surveyed car buyers last year and found that just 34% of women would consider an EV for their next vehicle, compared to 71% of men.

“No survey is truly reflective or definitive of an entire population of individuals, but early findings indicate there are stark differences between men and women when it comes to EV car shopping,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’s AVP of insights, wrote of the findings. “Automakers as well as dealers who take these differences into consideration and fine-tune their strategies have a better chance of winning these audiences over early and keeping them as lifelong customers, which is always the ultimate goal.”

EV proponents like Harrison see opportunities to close the EV gender gap, especially as the industry introduces a wider variety of models with higher battery ranges and lower prices. And she hopes more women will give EVs a chance so they don’t miss out on economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs.

“Switching into an electric vehicle is one of the fastest ways to cut money off of what you spend on a car,” she said. “It’s all the more reason why women should really be driving these vehicles, because they make less money overall than men.”

What’s driving women away from EVs?

So far, research offers a few explanations: range anxiety and accompanying safety concerns (for example, the proposition of pulling up to a remote charging station at night to find broken chargers) and the higher upfront cost of EVs compared to ICE vehicles (though that’s beginning to change). A quarter of the women surveyed by Edmunds reported that they did “not know enough about EVs to have an opinion,” which Edmunds says suggests that “unique selling points and practical reasons for purchasing an EV need to be proactively communicated” to women consumers.

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Edmunds also found that men and women tend to have different considerations when they’re shopping for a new car. Among the men surveyed who said they would consider buying an EV, brand was the “most important attribute,” and nearly a third reported that they like to be early adopters of new technologies. Women respondents, however, were “two times more likely to say that they are trying to fight climate change,” perhaps presenting a marketing opportunity for automakers and dealers. Women respondents also reported that they are “waiting for a crop of less expensive options before committing to purchasing an EV,” which today are limited but starting to hit the market.

“That EVs aren’t being purchased by women is leading to more questions than answers,” Marc Bland, S&P Global Mobility’s chief diversity officer, said in a blog post about the EV gender gap. “Women shoppers have concerns about range anxiety and safety. These brands need to do a lot more educating.”

Harrison pointed to recent developments, like investments to build a more robust public charging network across the US. She says she believes stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that women aren’t left out of electrification and its benefits: “It’s a collective effort to get more women driving them, more women charging them, more women feeling comfortable with them.”

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.