Why aren't women buying electric cars?

07th June 2023
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

Women aren’t buying electric cars. Despite the product moving from one with a narrative around powertrains, chassis, suspension and other engineering terms steeped in industry jargon, to one with a far more consumer-friendly story about sustainability, carbon footprints and a cleaner lifestyle, the consumer gender gap is widening compared with the buying behaviours around combustion-engined cars. It makes no sense to observers – we know that women in any other area of life have historically been more engaged in buying sustainable products than men, just not cars.


So last month, I launched a report with Auto Trader and Hive, by British Gas, titled “No Driver Left Behind: Women and the Journey to Electric”. We surveyed 4,000 women, we conducted focus groups, we delved into the findings, and the position was stark: women do not know about electric cars, they don’t care about electric cars, they aren’t confident in buying one and therefore they are not buying them.

Why should this matter? Because women are 47 per cent of licence holders in this country, and the owners of 41 per cent of cars on our roads. They are half the population. It’s as absurd as swapping the word “women” in this column for “people with brown hair”. It’s not good enough and it is potentially the blocker in the UK for mass adoption of EVs, which may explain why the Government has been listening and has now invited us to discuss the report next month in Westminster.

The stats from the report are, as ever, nuanced, although the overall message is not: 62 per cent of women say they don’t know enough about electric cars to buy one confidently (47 per cent of men feel the same, which ain’t great); 72 per cent think they are too expensive (can’t argue with that one, although the majority also think they’re more expensive to run, which is emphatically not the case), and half of women think “It might not be charged when I need it”.


Charging and range anxiety are crucial barriers for women in a way they simply aren’t for men, because the majority of caring responsibilities, whether for children, parents or partners, falls on women in the UK. It makes women far more heightened to the risks of EVs – I’ve lost count of the number of times women from the focus groups told us they wouldn’t go electric because “what happens if I run out of charge on the motorway with the kids in the back?”, or “What happens if I need to get my mother-in-law to hospital in the night and I haven’t plugged the car in properly to charge?”. It’s very difficult to assuage these concerns without real life experience to point to, which is where women who have bought EVs come in.

Current female EV owners report very few of these problems in reality, which is critical going forwards: 80 per cent of women who own EVs said they would buy an EV again for their next car, and 81 per cent would recommend an EV to their friend or colleague. And that’s because the reality of EV ownership is not nearly as scary as the perception of it. 

A massive 65 per cent of women who were planning to buy an EV were worried about the battery degradation in their prospective EV, but only 15 per cent of women who own an EV said they’d noticed any fall in battery performance, and then it was only by 10 per cent or less. I’d be surprised if it was even that – this worry about battery health is almost entirely based on myth and rumour: batteries are covered under an eight-year warranty in almost every instance and there appears to be very little degradation reported in the market. Nonetheless, a standardised check and labelling system is much needed across the industry to address consumer concern.

Similarly, 57 per cent of women were worried about the distance they could travel on one charge if they bought electric, but only 20 per cent of female EV owners said the range had ever been a problem for them.


Test drives are crucial in all this. Women have to experience these cars, see how much fun they can be, how satisfying that smooth, silent drive is, how quick the initial acceleration is, and how dependable the range is. They have to see it’s not dirty or difficult to plug in to charge, and that they can plan their routes and rely on the charge information from the digital display. And they have to understand from retailers how cheap these cars are to run, from the off-peak domestic energy tariff to the lack of congestion charge and lower servicing costs. 

We have to put this information in front of them where they already exist – not in car magazines or YouTube reviews, but in their environments of family, food and drink, wellbeing, culture, travel, health and so on. Women do want to consume car content, just not in the same manner or with the same language as men. 

Car brands have to properly inform themselves on this massive consumer base: gender neutrality is not a passive state. The report is here, if you fancy some bedtime reading.

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