There’s currently considerable talk – and a fair amount of scepticism – about whether now is the time for EVs to enter the mass market.
Much of this debate has been evidenced by large-scale consumer surveys amongst non-EV drivers, and fuelled by comment on the cost of oil and EV charging infrastructure. But looking at the bigger picture for too long can mean losing sight of the detail. So what does the picture look like from the other end of the telescope?
There are around 5,000 EV drivers in Europe, and it would be reasonable to think this compact universe had been studied in depth. However, surprisingly little has been done to find out about whether EV drivers’ habits change as a result of their EV driving experience.
The demographic of the EV driver (younger, and more likely to be male than the non-EV driver) implies that they have to work, which rather defeats the argument that EV drivers use their EV as a mere toy.
We have a lot of contact with our customer base, and anecdotal feedback supports the idea that driving an EV is a ‘hearts and minds’ experience that changes both attitudes and behaviour.
In recent months we’ve been involved in two studies – one giving a snapshot of attitudes to EVs, and a second longitudinal study looking at long-term behaviour in EV users. The results paint a fascinating picture.
Most EV drivers had at least one other, non-electric vehicle. Predictably, they were using their EVs for routine, carefully planned journeys, such as the commute to work. But despite the fact that they were using EVs for the drudge journeys, EV drivers were more likely to describe their EVs as ‘fun’ cars. So far this finding doesn’t differ from what you might expect – after all, EVs have been described as ‘rich men’s toys’.
EV users travel much further than expected, in some cases racking up distances in excess of 18,000 miles (30,000km) per year, and they report a switch in allegiance from gasoline or diesel to viewing their EV as the primary family car.
However the demographic of the EV driver (younger, and more likely to be male than the non-EV driver) implies that they have to work, which rather defeats the argument that EV drivers use their EV as a mere toy, and implies they have ‘converted’ to EV evangelism. This raises the question: did they convert before or after their EV purchase?
Interim results from the longitudinal study (which is still under way) go some way to answering this question. In this study, designed primarily to find out about EV charging habits, families were provided with EVs to use as a second car. We fully expected to find that these families would continue to use their diesel or gasoline car as a primary car, and the EV as a back-up. But the data is showing something different. EV users travel much further than expected, in some cases racking up distances in excess of 18,000 miles (30,000km) per year, and they report a switch in allegiance from gasoline or diesel to viewing their EV as the primary family car.
The full dataset on the longitudinal study will not be available for another year. It will be interesting to compare this data, when it’s available, to reports on the bigger picture.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Erik Fairbairn is the CEO of POD Point. For more information, visit www.pod-point.com
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