Academic study argues women and retirees are ideal, but largely untapped, market for electric cars
Electric car manufacturers could be missing a trick in their efforts to boost demand for low emission vehicles it seems, with women and retirees presenting an ideal but largely untapped market for electric vehicles (EVs), new academic research suggests.
Joint research by the University of Sussex and Aarhus University in Denmark published this week found more focused marketing of EVs targeting women could be more effective than government intervention in accelerating the shift away from fossil fuel cars.
Researchers said highly educated women were an untapped but potentially lucrative market for EVs because they have "greater environmental and fuel efficiency awareness than men".
In addition, the study recommends the newly-retired should be targeted for EVs because the demographic generally boasts high levels of car ownership and larger budgets for purchases, whiole typically driving shorter distances. All of these attributes are seen as ideal characteristics for EV ownership, the researchers said.
Professor Benjamin Sovacool, lead author of the study and director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) at the University of Sussex, said car purchasing decisions were influenced by a range of factors beyond just economic self-interest.
"The sooner that electric vehicle manufacturers and policymakers understand how these factors influence the decisions people make about their transport choices, the quicker people will switch to more sustainable modes of transport and hopefully long before legislation leaves them with no petrol or diesel alternative come 2040," he said.
The study looked at perceptions and attitudes towards electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration in five Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, the last of which leads Europe and the world on electric car ownership.
It found women generally drive fewer kilometres per day, expect to pay less for their next car and have "considerably less experience" of driving EVs compared to men. They also rank ease of operations, running costs, safety and environmental impact higher in their decision making for buying a new car, making them well suited to EV ownership.
Meanwhile, men tended to attach more importance in their purchasing decisions to speed, acceleration, design and style than women. And, while men are currently more than twice as likely to own electric cars than women, the study found green benefits ranked below other aspects such as comfort or acceleration in their reasons for owning an EV.
Professor Sovacool said the research highlighted EVs still suffered from an image problem, with families tending to prefer large, conventional cars that symbolise welfare and status. He also said that policy mechanisms such as a carbon tax or purchasing discounts may not be particularly effective because they are gender or demographic neutral, comparing the challenge to the drive to stop people smoking.
"If the car-driving population of the world is to kick its habit for petrol or diesel vehicles in preference for something more environmentally friendly, then a more nuanced approach is needed than has been evidenced so far," he explained. "A rapid and comprehensive transition to electric mobility will require a combination of technological, regulatory, institutional, economic, cultural and behavioural changes that together transform the sociotechnical systems that provide energy or mobility services. Shifting from a petrol or diesel car to an electric vehicle is not simply a choice between different vehicle models, it is a behavioural adjustment problem to adapt to the different restrictions of an electric vehicle such as its range and availability of charging."
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