Publication Detail

Theories of New Technology Purchase Decisions: The Case of Alternative Fuel Vehicles


Journal Article

Suggested Citation:
Turrentine, Thomas S. and Daniel Sperling (1992) Theories of New Technology Purchase Decisions: The Case of Alternative Fuel Vehicles. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Journal Article UCD-ITS-RP-91-05

The introduction of alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs) will increase the diversity, complexity and uncertainty of the personal-use vehicle market. Several AFVs will have attributes unfamiliar to consumers, including home refueling, reduced refueling ranges, different noise levels, safety and performance characteristics. Also, the reduced emissions and greater energy security associated with AFVs will make personal vehicle selection and use a more prominent public issue. It is unknown what these differences in vehicle attributes and the prominence of social concerns will have on vehicle purchase and travel behavior.

Choice modeling has been the dominant method used to analyze and forecast consumer responses to transportation alternatives. These models assume stable tastes, good consumer knowledge of the alternatives, and consumer choices independent of social choices. These assumptions are unsupportable for the AFVs market. Before defensible quantitative forecasts can be made of potential demand and travel behavior for AFVs, research should be focused upon understanding consumer responses to AFVs. We review theories of consumer behavior from economics, sociology, psychology and marketing with respect to three critical features of the alternative fueled vehicles market: increased market complexity, new product attributes and social benefits. We synthesize elements of these approaches into a conceptual model that can be used to guide interdisciplinary research on purchase and travel behavior responses to alternative fueled vehicles.
University of California Transportation Center Working Paper no. 129.