Electric Vehicles: Will consumers get charged up?

Craig Morton, Jillian Anable, Geertje Schuitema

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


Climate change programmes around the globe are relying heavily on the electrification of private transport to achieve carbon reduction targets. Currently, the main focus is on electric vehicles (EVs) in particular, which are novel technologies, including fully electric, plug-in hybrid and range extended electric vehicles. In general, mainstream consumers have no experience with EVs. This presents a significant challenge to the investigation and prediction of the consumer response to such vehicles. In order to accelerate the market, more evidence is needed on the willingness of consumers to respond to this technology and under what combination of fuel prices, incentives, infrastructure provision, technical performance, individual and societal norms success is most likely to be achieved.
This paper presents a systematic review of the international evidence to understand consumer behaviour relating to the uptake of cars in general and EVs in particular. The literature falls into two broad categories (i) theoretical texts relating to socio-technical transitions, instrumental, symbolic and affective motives and consumer segmentation; (ii) empirical evidence based on (a) qualitative and conventional questionnaire surveys eliciting consumer attitudes and perceptions of (alternatively fuelled) vehicle attributes; (b) revealed and stated preference surveys of consumer behaviour regarding a variety of vehicle powertrains and (c) consumer responses to EVs before and after (small-scale) vehicle trials.
In order to synthesise this evidence, this paper will present a conceptual framework of EV adoption to incorporate the socio-psychological, functional and symbolic motives present in the literature. Moreover, insights as to how behavioural antecedents are likely to prevail in different consumer segments will be included, which goes beyond the typical diffusion theory classification of early adopters and mainstream consumers. Suggestions as to novel research methodologies are also offered.
The results presented will underpin future primary data collection being undertaken by the authors as part of the Consumers and Vehicles sub-project of the Energy Technologies Plug-in Vehicle Economics and Infrastructure programme and as part of a PhD project funded by the UK Energy Research Centre.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventUniversities Transport Study Group 43rd Annual Conference - Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Feb 20103 Feb 2010


ConferenceUniversities Transport Study Group 43rd Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityMilton Keynes


  • transport
  • climate change
  • electric vehicles
  • behavioural theory
  • diffusion of innovation


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