Accelerating Commercialization of Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicles

This project gauges the extent to which car-owning households in California have considered purchasing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) (collectively, ZEVs). It explores which households have or have not considered ZEVs and, in those differences, seeks suggestions for how to promote greater consideration across an increased number and broader variety of households. The analysis is based on an on-line survey of car-owning households in California conducted in February 2017; the sample size was n = 1,681. The primary measure is the extent to which respondents have already considered a ZEV for their household: 4-of-5 car-owning households in California had given either no or nearly no consideration to ZEVs. Combined, less than 10 percent had given the highest two levels of consideration; active shopping or ownership. Other measures of awareness, name recognition, incentive knowledge, and driving experience were commensurately low. Relying on socio-economic and demographic variables to segment markets is unlikely to succeed. Variables describing respondents’ decision contexts and resources are important, especially whether respondents can reliably access electricity at a home parking location. General attitudes regarding air quality, the relative public health and environmental effects of electricity vs. gasoline, and experience with HEVs add further explanatory power.

Ultimately though, variables specific to ZEVs are more strongly associated with ZEV consideration: interest in ZEV technology; familiarity with ZEVs including name recognition, driving experience, and recognizing and recalling PEV charging, assessments of ZEV charging/fueling duration, driving range, purchase price, safety and reliability; and, whether people know a ZEV owner. The modeling done here is of differences between people at one point in time not of changes to people over time. Still, the suggestion is that to increase ZEV market growth it is essential to increase peoples’ awareness and knowledge, providing them with the basis for informed assessments, and thus prompt serious consideration of ZEVs for their households. It should not be expected that all the people who have so far paid no or little attention will be quickly converted to ZEV shoppers and owners. However, there seems little prospect to grow the ZEV market unless the vast majority of car-owning households in California can be engaged in the transition to electric-drive.

Newer results come from additional analysis of the role of biological sex/social gender. The lower likeliness that female respondents have considered zero emission vehicles is solely for fuel cell electric vehicles. There appear to be some slight differences in how some explanatory variables are correlated to consideration between males and females: for females, it matters more that they live in a household that has flexible vehicle assignments; for males, it matters more whether they claim familiarity with internal combustion engine vehicles and experience with zero emission vehicles. Still, these differences are marginal and do not contravene the overall finding that across all respondents—female and male—few have paid much attention to any kind of zero emission vehicle.

Zero emission vehicle consideration is a multi-faceted concept and there are several ways in which it can be initiated: personal contact with zero emission vehicle drivers; making visible the signs of the transition, i.e., teaching people which vehicles they see on the road are zero emission vehicles, making visible not merely of specific charger locations but a growing charging network, and marketing the fact incentives exist to buy and use zero emission vehicles; and expanding the number and variety of opportunities to gain direct experience of zero emission vehicles. In doing so, consider differential possibilities to provide targeted messages at the majority of car-owning households who are not opposed to the idea of zero emission vehicles, but simply have paid them no attention.


Research Area