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Symbolism and the Adoption of Fuel-Cell Vehicles

UCD-ITS-RP-07-15

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Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center

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Suggested Citation:
Heffner, Reid R., Kenneth S. Kurani, Thomas S. Turrentine (2007) Symbolism and the Adoption of Fuel-Cell Vehicles. World Electric Vehicle Association Journal I, 24 - 31

Since car buyers have limited experience with fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), direct study of FCV adoption is not feasible. However, consumer behavior toward other types of electric-drive vehicles may offer clues about how the market for FCVs will develop. Research on owners of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) indicates that consumers buy these vehicles partly because of the vehicles' symbolism. Any vehicle can serve as a symbol; it can represent meanings which relate to the identity of the vehicle’s owner. This qualitative research study examines early buyers of HEVs to understand the symbolic meanings they perceived in their vehicles and the role symbolism played in their HEV purchases. Findings are then prospectively applied to the future market for FCVs. The study includes four specific recommendations to increase the possibility that FCV buyers can access and communicate important symbolic meanings with their vehicles, thus increasing the likelihood of the FCV’s commercial success.