Gender Imbalance in the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Market Threatens to Slow Future Market Growth

Early sales and leases of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) appear to be skewed towards men. Data from California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and reports from auto industry observers indicate the ratios of male-to-female buyers of PEVs were in the range of four-to-one to nearly six-to-one during the period 2011 to 2014. This is alarming given the ratio of male-to-female buyers for the full vehicle market is about one-to-one and deviations usually favor more women than men.

A skew toward men in the early PEV market should not be dismissed merely as “boys and their toys” motivated to purchase PEVs because of interest in new technology (even if, as this study supports, men are more likely than women to express an interest in PEV technology). Research on early PEV owners indicates that for their many similarities, females and males talked about their PEVs in ways that suggest female PEV drivers’ experiences may carry less influence to shape the future of PEVs and charging infrastructure than males’ experience. If future PEV performance and charging infrastructure deployment are guided by early buyers’ feedback, male-dominated feedback will shape a system to which women will have to adapt. Unless attention is paid to understanding how sex identity and gender roles affect both supply and demand for PEVs, there is a continued risk of limiting PEV market growth.