Who Likes Electric Cars? Rich, Educated, Middle-Aged Men, That's Who

By: Alex Goldmark

This post also appears on Transportation Nation

A study from Norway sheds a little light on what kind of person is buying electric cars, and how they drive.

The Institute of Transport Economics in Norway concludes that the typical early-adopter of an electric vehicle is likely to be a man, probably middle-aged, living in or near a big city who has a high income and education level, according to a literature review of various studies from multiple countries. One French study found the early adopters also tended to work in industries that exposed them first hand to EVs before buying one, such as electricians, or government workers in municipalities with EV fleets.
This scan of studies paints a picture that EV adoption is still far from widespread, but that the very act of owning an EV might change the owner's behavior and government polices can influence the choice to own an EV.
The early-adopters tend to live in households with other cars, hinting that EVs are being used as a second car and potentially replacing public transit use rather than gas driving.
That said, EV owners drive differently, the researchers conclude. Drivers of electric cars tend to use their EVs for commuting and choose their routes more carefully than gas guzzling drivers, and thus tend to choose toll roads more often too.
Explaining why needs more research, but presumably an EV driver is more aware of wasting mileage out of fear of running out of battery, indicating that fear of running out of energy is a far better incentive to choose the most direct route than having to pay extra for wasted gas. The researchers write:
"Adjustments drivers have to make when driving an EV include better planning of journeys – due to battery limitations – and adoption of a smooth (non-erratic) driving style. Motives behind the purchase are the special regulatory advantages (such as in Norway), environmental considerations, lower operation costs and simply the convenience and fun it is to drive these vehicles. Taxes and incentives play a large motivating factor in increasing EV adoption, and also guiding who does that adopting."
Much of the study dives into Norwegian EV adoption and the impact of polices there to encourage EV use, such as tax waivers and letting EVs drive in bus lanes.
In the Norwegian studies, which are more detailed than the international ones cited, people drove more once they got an electric vehicle. That makes some sense considering that each additional mile is cheaper for an EV owner than a gas-powered car. As it turns out, some of that increased driving was due to people who were using EVs as a substitute for public transit.
The literature review also scanned surveys of popular perceptions of EVs across countries and found wide variations with two common negative perceptions: range anxiety and battery charging hassle factors. People didn't want to have to take the time to charge their car, and they feared running out of juice on the road. People who actually own EVs, however, were less likely to cite range worries, according to one French study. Interestingly, price complaints were less commonly cited.
Positive perceptions were pretty much as one might expect: EVs were credited as being environmentally-friendly and making less noise. They were also associated with easy parking, presumably because in some countries, parking spaces are reserved for EVs to charge in, of parking fees are waived. In Norway, EVs are given free parking permits.
All of this is just a small glimpse at that demographics and behavior of a small group of auto consumers. It's early yet to say who will come to like the electric car. One lesson from this research seems to be how easy it would be to change the face of EV ownership through policy. The more incentives there are to go electric, the more people--and the wider range of people--who will do it.
Read the full study here.

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Photo: Alex Goldmark
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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

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According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

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The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

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Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

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A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

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