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Understanding barriers to Electric Vehicle adoption amongst mass market car drivers

Project team

Dr David Jarvis, Professor Nigel Berkeley, Dr Andrew Jones


Automobile Association

Duration of project

January 2016 – January 2017

Project overview

Within the context of government policy regulating against the sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles within the next two decades, the project sought to understand how ready the mass market is to transition to electric vehciles (EVs). Much research had focused on the supply side of EVs: the cars themselves, the batteries, the charging infrastructure etc, but much less so on the demand side: the challenges and barriers facing every day drivers in the mass market.

This is important because despite significant policy intervention to stimulate their uptake, EV market share remains far short of the level required to push them into the mainstream. For this to happen, we need to understand why drivers, familiar only with the internal combustion engine ecosystem, are reluctant to switch to EVs.

A detailed review of academic and grey literature enabled us to develop a comprehensive list of potential barriers to EV adoption, with drivers asked, through a survey, to rank each barrier’s relative importance on a five point likert scale. 

To access the ‘mass market’ of non-EV drivers (prior research had primarily focused on the limited experience of drivers trialling EVs) we collaborated with the Automobile Association, who, in association with Populus, run a Motoring Panel of over 180,000 members. Samples of approximately 25,000 complete on-line surveys every month.

We worked with Populus to ensure the logic, applicability and phrasing of questions, and the survey was subsequently incorporated into the AA’s January 2016 survey.

Findings from over 26,000 drivers revealed that resistance to EV adoption is characterised by twelve barriers that can be reduced and conceptualised as ‘economic uncertainty’ and ‘socio-technical’ factors.

Economic uncertainty was found to be significantly associated with age and geography, whilst socio-technical issues are related to gender. Problems of EV adoption were shown to be complex and requiring a  holistic ecosystem approach to address them. Findings are published in Transportation Research Part D (2018).

Project objectives

  • Identify demand-side barriers to the uptake of electric vehicles.
  • Investigate barriers from the largely ignored perspective of mass market drivers of ICE vehicles in a European context.
  • Assess the extent to which barriers are inter-related, and can be reduced down to larger explanatory ‘factors’.
  • Assess the extent to which barriers differ by different motorist charactertics (age, gender, place of residence, occupation).
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