A shortage of public chargers remains the biggest issue holding Americans back from buying electric vehicles, according to a recent study by J.D. Power.

"The growth in public charging isn’t keeping pace with the rising number of EVs on the road,” said Stewart Stropp, executive director of EV intelligence at J.D. Power, which conducted its 2023 U.S. Electric Vehicle Consideration Study by surveying more than 8,000 consumers.

“While (consumers) are impressed by what automakers are offering, they’re also thinking about how, when and where they’ll be able to charge their vehicles away from home. A resounding effort to build out and improve the public charging infrastructure will emphatically increase EV purchase consideration.”

There has been some good news on that front recently, but consumers aren’t yet seeing the results, Stropp said.

The bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress in late 2021 aims to create 500,000 public chargers throughout the nation by 2030. And the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year is providing tax credits for EV charging equipment and for consumers who buy EVs.

There are currently more than 3 million EVs on the road in the U.S. and more than 135,000 public chargers, according to an April 17 White House fact sheet.

Last month, General Motors and Ford announced a deal to allow owners of their EVs to charge them at many Tesla stations starting next year. Tesla owns one of the largest EV charging networks in America, with more than 45,000 chargers.

“I do think that’s going to make a difference for consumers,” Stropp said.

Meanwhile, some electric co-ops are banding together to form their own EV charging networks in regions such as the upper Midwest and the intermountain West.

“Electric cooperatives, diverse in their approaches, have become vital participants in the transportation fueling sector,” said Jennah Denney, NRECA’s manager of electric vehicle strategy and solutions.

“While some opt to develop and manage public EV charging networks, others support charger expansion through rates, rebates and programs that support smart-charging behaviors. Together, cooperatives are driving a reliable future for all.”

The study shows that simply riding in an EV as a passenger made consumers twice as likely to say that they’re “very likely” to consider buying one. And consumer interest continued to rise as people gained more experience with EVs as drivers or riders.

Some co-ops have created programs that offer members a short test drive at special events or let them borrow an EV to take home for a week or more.

“By providing opportunities for members to directly experience riding in an EV, cooperatives empower them with firsthand encounters as drivers or passengers,” Denney said.

Young drivers are the most likely to consider buying an EV, especially now that auto manufacturers are creating more affordable models, the study showed. Gen Z consumers, defined in the study as people born from 1995 to 2004, had the highest level of interest in EVs, with 72% saying they would consider purchasing one. Overall, 61% of the consumers surveyed said they would consider an EV.

“EV considerers often cite better fuel efficiency and a lower carbon footprint as motivations, and that applies to Gen Z consumers even more so,” Stropp said.

NRECA member surveys over the past several years have identified “difficulty engaging the next generation of members” as a significant challenge facing co-ops, Denney noted. Engaging with consumer-members on EVs could help co-ops reach younger members, she said.

“When attempting to encourage younger members to become more involved with the co-op, the little things can add up to create members for life.”