UNDERSTANDING CONSUMER ATTITUDES TO ELECTRIC MOBILITY: AN INVESTIGATION BY CARDIFF ELECTRIC VEHICLE CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE

by Huw Davies (Cardiff University)

The objectives of this part of the ENEVATE project were to identify: impacts of the introduction of EVs on user and market behaviour; potential for new e-mobility concepts, and; market drivers that will influence the acceptance of the different EV mobility concepts and the conditions needed for realising their acceptance.
To pursue these themes, the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence conducted social research with participants in a number of different types of EV pilot, covering the main regions of North-west Europe as shown by figure 1:


Figure 1 ENEVATE EV Pilots


There were three parts to this investigation – a quantitative questionnaire, a follow-up qualitative survey and a subsequent series of stakeholder workshops.

In total, 234 participants completed the questionnaire. They ranked factors influencing car purchasing habits in general before, then, rating possible incentives for EVs in particular. The results were positive for EVs as respondents enjoyed their pilot experience and would be willing to consider the cars in the future, but only if two vital obstacles were overcome: cost and range. As such, even though generous financial incentives currently operate, it appears that consumers do not consider these good enough. EVs are still more expensive to buy than their internal combustion engine counterparts, a discrepancy that seems especially galling when they do not offer comparative levels of performance with regards to the restricted range provided by present battery technology.

To explore these barriers, a follow-up survey probed at alternatives to conventional models of EV ownership, which might reduce financial outlay and mitigate concerns over battery capabilities. This used a self-selected segment of the original sample from the initial questionnaire. There were 97 responses. They were presented with a series of scenarios. The favoured alternative asked respondents how they would feel applying a mobile phone-style contract to an EV. This option was opposed to traditional ownership, so they would pay for usage of a car rather than outright ownership. Another well-liked option focused upon how respondents would feel about using an EV car-sharing scheme with an online membership and a variety of rental options – akin to the Paris Autolib’. Having paid a subscription, they could pick up a shared car from various points and pay a fee per mile as they use it.

Less accepted was the idea of leasing EVs on the existing car rental model, as often used by tourists. They would pay a fee to use the car for a set period of time and return it when it is no longer needed. Finally, the least popular proposition looked at the notion a co-operative model of car ownership whereby the local community would purchase an EV. They would own shares in the car, with one or more vehicles available to book, as required and depending on the type of journey such as an EV for short trips or a hybrid for longer trips. Despite varying levels of popularity, all four options showed more respondents for them than against them, suggesting that consumers would be willing to consider alternatives to conventional ownership. These findings imply that EVs might have a better prospect of succeeding if considered outside the realm of private ownership. Of course, such altered consumption patterns might further act to heighten the socio-environmental benefits of EVs.

The results were presented to expert audiences of academics, business figures and public sector representatives at a series of stakeholder workshops across North-west Europe. They are also available on both the ENEVATE and Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence websites.

A summation of this research is a toolkit for advising stakeholders in developing electric mobility schemes and maximising consumer engagement. The approach is outlined in figure 2:



Figure 2 ENEVATE EV Toolkit


The findings and toolkit outline were presented at a workshop held in Cardiff on 10th April 2013. The results from the workshop, along with the presented case studies will be used to further develop the toolkit, which will be presented at the Final ENEVATE conference, scheduled for 25th - 26th September 2013.