Survey says: Kids these days aren’t so into electric or autonomous vehicles

Conventional wisdom has kind of assumed that old fogies are afraid of self-driving cars and suffer from crippling range anxiety when it comes to EVs. Those youngsters, though, are all about autonomous electric cars — computers on wheels, if you will, that chauffeur them about town. But a new massive survey from (DTO, for short) says otherwise. Not about the fogies — they’re still afraid of self-driving electric cars — but about the kids. They don’t really like them either.

DTO surveyed 158,000 visitors to its site in early April 2017 and asked them just four questions about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and brands that are innovating in these spaces. DTO, by the way, is a site that lets people study for their driving test online, so many of the respondents don’t have a car yet themselves. (But some do, because they’re adding a motorcycle endorsement to an existing license.) Not surprisingly, then, the majority of answers came from millennials between the ages of 13 and 35.

So what did they find? Well, the first question was the most telling: Would you choose an electric vehicle over a comparably priced gas-powered vehicle? The answer for nearly 70% was nope. In the next question, about 30% said they’d be very or extremely concerned about riding in a self-driving car. People were also unsure about whether the benefits of self-driving cars would outweigh the costs and risks of the technology.

But they were sure about which manufacturer would sell the most EVs and autonomous cars in the next 10 years: Tesla. There were a couple of interesting things about this answer, though. First, the DTO survey says, “the high expectations for Tesla were limited to the large teenage cohort (an estimated 43.5% of DTO’s visitors). … Older age groups tended to favor Toyota (which is why Toyota was in second place.)” The other interesting thing was that respondents who said yes to question 1, that they would buy an EV over a gas-powered car, were more likely to pick Tesla as the brand to watch.

This survey happened to begin collecting answers the day after Tesla’s stock surpassed Ford’s. But, as has been noted, Tesla is in debt and shipped fewer than 100,000 cars in 2016. Ford, on the other hand, shipped 236,000 vehicles in March 2017 alone.

DTO did acknowledge in its conclusion that other polls have found a higher percentage of millennials to be interested in EVs. The study’s authors speculate that the difference is the fact that their website caters to cautious student drivers who are literally doing things by the book at this point in their driving experience. The respondents may have brought that mindset to the survey and answered more conservatively than they otherwise would.