Will your next vehicle purchase be an electric vehicle?

According to Ontario provincial government reports in 2016, the transportation sector is the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, emitting 35% of GHG emissions in the province. Electric vehicles are one of a range of strategies to lower carbon emissions, yet they currently make up less than 1% of new vehicle sales in Canada, compared to leaders such as Norway (30%). Further, how people make decisions about alternative vehicle purchases is relatively under-studied in the social sciences, particularly the social influences on purchasing behaviour.

I will be using a survey of London, Ontario residents to understand how family and friends potentially influence electric vehicle purchases. London, ON, is a prime candidate for growth in the market of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in only electric vehicles (EV). In the area of London, Ontario where our research will be completed, vehicle ownership has grown 30% from 2010 – 2017, about fourtimes faster than the population growth in the city over the last five years (City of London, 2017). This is a major cause for concern as the city has an average annual vehicle ownership growth rate of 3.9%, much higher compared to the most recent provincial growth rate of 0.4%, as stated by Stats Canada in November of 2017. Not only does the City of London have high vehicle ownership growth rates, but ownership is occurring in categories which are relatively higher contributors to GHG. According to the latest City of London vehicle ownership data from 2017, diesel and gas vehicles make up 89.4% of the total vehicles in London. Yet the combined ownership of HEV and EV is just shy of 1% of the total vehicles in London, a measly 0.6% growth since 2010.

The survey research will identify individuals travel behaviour but focus mainly on vehicle purchases and how their interactions with family, friends, neighbours, and coworkers may influence their decision to purchase an HEV or EV. The working premise is depicted in the diagram such that influence is expected to decrease with increasing social distance from family towards coworkers. The closer the social group to the center, the more influence we expect on expressed vehicle purchasing behaviour. While the idea of family and social influence has been explored in other contexts in the marketing and consumer behaviour literature, there is little research on the influences of social groups on alternative fuel vehicle purchases.

Meanwhile some economists have explored the influence of ‘neighbouring’, which tends to find that there is a tendency for consumer preferences to increase as the market for HEV and EV increases. For more information on these ideas and concepts please use the following links: http://bit.do/AxsenMountainJaccard & http://bit.do/MauJaccardEtAl. My research will unpack this concept and look at the impact that literal neighbours, families, friends and coworkers may have on each other’s mindset when it comes to HEV and EV options.

In addition to these academic contributions the research will provide insights about information preferences (e.g., booths at local events, plug-in infrastructure, preferential parking) that municipalities may lever to both accommodate and nudge residents towards lower GHG choices. Results of the survey will appear in academic publication, and here on the CEKAP website.

Own a HEV or EV and live in London, ON? We would like to hear from you! Our survey will be distributed to a random sample of London residents, but we would like “oversample” current HEV and EV owners given that there are relatively few in the city. Please contact me to be added to our survey distribution list: Jordan Fuller (jfulle32@uwo.ca).

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Jordan Fuller, I was born and raised in London, Ontario, where I currently reside. I am a second year master’s student in geography at Western. I am working under the supervision of Jamie Baxter, whom is a member of the research team at CEKAP. Before I started my master’s, I completed my undergrad at Western in Environment and Health in 2017. My thesis is ‘Social influences on decision making for hybrid and electric vehicle purchases’.

Date Published: October 15, 2018
Written by: Jordan Fuller
Category: Blog