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Evaluation of Hypothetical Early Market Segments' Response to Electric Vehicles: Results of Test Drive Clinics and Focus Groups


Research Report

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Suggested Citation:
Kurani, Kenneth S. (1993) Evaluation of Hypothetical Early Market Segments' Response to Electric Vehicles: Results of Test Drive Clinics and Focus Groups. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-93-19

Drive clinics and follow-up focus groups were held with members of two hypothetical early market segments for electric vehicles – EV innovators and environmentalists. These two groups are often cited as likely initial buyers of new, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) EVs. As the first buyers, these people would be influential in setting the course of EV sales. These assumptions about early market segments raise several questions. First, can innovator and green market segments be identified prior to the existence of an EV market? Will these people actually be among the early buyers of OEM EVs? If the answers to both these questions are affirmative, then what attributes of EVs act as incentives or barriers to purchase? And, which attributes affect choices between particular EVs?

This study alone will not answer these questions, rather it serves as one in a series of studies at ITS-Davis which attempt to address these issues. But, assuming the participants in this study have been correctly identified as innovators and environmentalists, their responses to various vehicles and vehicle attributes do address the questions whether they will be the initial buyers of EVs and what incentives and barriers could most affect their purchase choices.

Little evidence is found to support the supposition that our samples of EV innovators or environmentalists are willing to pay a purchase price premium to be among the first buyers of OEM EVs. While innovators show greater faith in the potential of EVs to address air quality problems, the two groups otherwise show few differences in their general perceptions of EVs. For members of both groups, choices between a free EV and an EV for which respondents must pay were strongly affected by the offered prices. When forced to pay for the EV, nearly half the participants chose none of the vehicles. A third of all the participants chose a Geo Metro conversion rather than an OEM prototype.

The converted vehicle was considered attractive for two reasons. First, some innovators viewed the converted vehicle as one they would be willing to modify to their personal tastes. Second, within the relative purchase price structures offered to the participants, the conversion was the least expensive freeway-capable vehicle. Freeway capability was a distinguishing feature between groups of EVs and both market segments showed a strong preference for freeway capable vehicles.