Smart Columbus Ride & Drive:

The Dynamics of Product- and Self-Perception in the EV Market

Research on electric vehicles (EVs) tends to take a pragmatic approach, in which technological acceptance and ease of use are key motivators for EV adoption. However, EV adoption is also impacted by abstract concepts such as lifestyle and culture. EVs can provide symbolic value to their owners by expressing a personal identity, like being a pro-environmental or tech-savvy person, which can promote a sense of prestige and pride. Understanding how consumers react to EVs, and what factors may promote their interest in transitioning from conventional vehicles to EVs could support large-scale changes in sustainable transportation as well as individual sustainable consumption practices. This research project shifts the focus away from pragmatic considerations of EV adoption, and instead focuses on psycho-social and experiential components of EV perception that promote EV adoption.

In this project, we frame EV adoption as a dynamic process. The primary aim of this research is to understanding whether test-driving an EV boosts consumers’ perception of both the EV and their own personal identities as either environmentalists or early-adopters, thus promoting a sense of pride and an increased interest in EV adoption.

Methods: This study uses a unique quasi-experimental field study. Surveys measure EV- and self-perception, as well as anticipated and self-conscious emotions both before and after an EV test-drive to identify the influence of the test-drive experience on these variables. A set of measures (including intent to adopt, willingness to pay, willingness to share, Word of Mouth, and willingness to participate in another test-drive) are used to explore relationships between changes in EV- and self-perception and EV adoption likelihood.

Significance: Working with the Ride & Drive program at Smart Columbus provides a unique research opportunity to measure changes in EV and self-perception following an EV test-drive. Based on the study’s findings, campaigns promoting EV test drives and sales can be suggested to target influential psychological factors that are likely to boost EV adoption.

Project Phase: Data collection complete, manuscript in preparation

Collaborators: Smart Columbus: Columbus Partnership