Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Baxter, Jamie

Abstract

Growth in electric vehicle ownership in Canada has been slow relative to policy imperatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the 2014 IPCC report the global transportation sector was responsible for approximately 23% of all energy related CO2 emissions - second only to the energy supply sector. Further, transportation-related GHG emissions have risen despite growing availability of more efficient modes of transportation (IPCC, 2014). In Ontario, where there is an emphasis on renewable energy production, the transportation sector is the largest emitter of GHGs at 35% (Ontario Government, 2016). We conducted our case study in London, Ontario where vehicle ownership has grown 40% from 2010 – 2018 while combined ownership of plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and plug in electric vehicles (EV) grew only 2.8% (City of London, 2019).

While existing research on hybrid and EV purchasing focuses mainly on market-level economic models, few studies investigate how either social influence or municipal intervention impact electric vehicle purchasing behaviour. This study uses a survey of 257 Londoners, randomly selected from four different postal codes to determine if their likelihood to purchase a hybrid or EV is influenced by social (e.g. talking with family and friends) and municipal factors (e.g., municipally sponsored test drive events, preferential parking). Those factors were included in a model with several other predictors of electric vehicle purchasing behaviour including: cost/financial concerns, environmental concerns, and sociodemographic factors. As hypothesized both social and municipal variables were significantly associated with likelihood to purchase a hybrid or EV as expected. There are two key implications. First, those interested in promoting hybrid/EV should consider messaging that centers on current owners of hybrid/EVs interacting with family and friends. Second, cities should consider their role in providing relatively low-cost incentives and promotion for hybrid or EV. Future research might include direct municipal interventions meant to increase hybrid/EV uptake along with measurement of the impacts using before and after questionnaire.

Summary for Lay Audience

For the purposes of this research we distinguish two key categories of "electric" vehicles:

Hybrid-Electric Vehicle: vehicles that combine BOTH the use of; an electric motor AND the use of gasoline or diesel powered engines. This includes all Plug-In Hybrids. e.g., Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion ENERGI, Chevrolet Volt

Plug-In Electric Vehicle: vehicles that ONLY use an electric motor and battery and do NOT use an internal combustion engine. These vehicles are commonly known as Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). e.g., Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt

The growth of the electric vehicle (EV) has been slow in Canada compared to other countries, despite the efforts of the government. Transportation remains a main source of pollution that is emitted into the air and has recently become a bigger issue in recent years despite the increasing availability of EVs. There has been some research into what influences individuals to want to purchase hybrids and EVs, but many of them focused on environmental and financial influences that used complex models. Precisely, what previous research looked at was whether or not EVs become more desirable as more people buy them and what type of people are most likely to purchase them.

This research was conducted on 257 London, Ontario residents, a city where vehicle growth has risen significantly in the last eight years, but has seen very limited growth in EVs. This research set out to determine if two influential factors can help lead a person towards wanting to purchase an EV; firstly, social influences, such as talking with friends and family about EVs, and secondly, municipal interventions, such as holding EV information sessions. These factors were placed in tests together among other predictors of EV purchasing behaviour in order to determine which factors actually influence a person’s intent to purchase an EV. As predicted, both the social and municipal influences were found to be associated with a person’s likelihood to purchase a hybrid or EV. There are two key implications from the results. First, those interested in promoting hybrid/EV should consider messaging that centers on current owners of hybrid/EVs interacting with family and friends. Second, cities should consider their role in providing relatively low-cost incentives and promotion for hybrid or EV. Future research might include direct municipal interventions meant to increase hybrid/EV uptake along with measurement of the impacts using before and after questionnaire.

Available for download on Thursday, December 31, 2020

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