Publication Detail

Comprehending Consumption: The Behavioral Basis and Implementation of Driver Feedback for Reducing Vehicle Energy Use


Research Report

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

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Suggested Citation:
Stillwater, Tai (2011) Comprehending Consumption: The Behavioral Basis and Implementation of Driver Feedback for Reducing Vehicle Energy Use. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-11-13

A large body of evidence suggests that drivers who receive real-time fuel economy information can increase their vehicle fuel economy by 5%, a process commonly known as ecodriving. However, few studies have directly addressed the human side of the feedback, that is, why drivers would be motivated to change their behavior and how to design feedback devices to maximize that motivation. This dissertation approaches the question using a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach to explore driver responses and psychology as well as to quantify the process of behavior change. The first chapter discusses the use of mile-per-gallon fuel economy as a metric for driver feedback and finds that an alternative energy economy metric is superior for real-time feedback. The second chapter reviews behavioral theories and proposes a number of practical solutions for the ecodriving context. In the third chapter the theory of planned behavior is tested against driver responses to an existing feedback system available in the 2008 model Toyota Prius. The fourth chapter presents a novel feedback design based on behavioral theories and drivers' responses to the feedback. Finally, chapter five presents the quantitative results of a natural-driving study of fuel economy feedback. The dissertation findings suggest that behavior theories such as the Theory of Planned Behavior can provide important improvements to existing feedback designs. In addition, a careful analysis of vehicle energy flows indicates that the mile-per-gallon metric is deeply flawed as a real-time feedback metric, and should be replaced. Chapters 2 and 3 conclude that behavior theories have both a theoretical and highly practical role in feedback design, although the driving context requires just as much care in the application. Chapters 4 and 5 find that a theory-inspired interface provides drivers with engaging and motivating feedback, and that integrating personal goal into the feedback is the most motivating theory-based addition. Finally, the behavioral model results in chapter 5 suggest that driver goals not only influence in-vehicle energy use, but are themselves flexible constructs that can be directly influenced by energy feedback.
Ph.D. Dissertation