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How a cognitive bias is stopping the rise of electric cars – Can it work?


[More in the genre of: If those stoopid peasants only understood what is good for them!]

A UNIGE team found that underestimating battery autonomy is a major psychological barrier to buying an electric car.

A peer-reviewed publication

UNIVERSITÉ DE GENÈVE

What are the barriers to using electric cars? Although the main financial and technological obstacles have been removed, their market share still needs to increase. In a recent study, a research team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) investigated the cognitive factors that still prevent many people from switching to electric cars. They found that car owners systematically underestimated the ability of the electric driving system to meet the day-to-day demands. These results, published in Natural energyopens up new avenues for accelerating electrification in the mobility sector in addition to conventional policy approaches.

The increase of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere is one of the main causes of global warming. Among the greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide – CO2 is well known – of which the transportation industry is one of the main emitters. Fossil fuel-powered vehicles alone account for nearly 18 percent of global CO2 emissions. Fleet electrification has thus become one of the major challenges of the energy transition.

The number of electric vehicles is increasing in many countries. However, they are still far from having the market share that would allow significant reductions in road traffic emissions. In 2020, they represent only 1% of the global fleet, including hybrids. To meet the 2030 climate goals, this share needs to be at least 12%.

It’s (almost) all in my head

Now that key financial and technological barriers have been removed (more affordable purchase prices, financial incentives, denser network of toll booths), what factors are still hindering adoption widely this mode of transport? A large part of the answer lies in car drivers’ cognitive biases and shortcuts.

“Until now, initiatives related to energy transition have often focused on the technological and financial barriers to realizing them. Psychological factors have been considered very little. However, numerous studies indicate that individuals do not automatically adopt the behaviors that are most beneficial to themselves or to society, often due to an inability to access adequate information,” said Mario Herberz, author first study and researcher in Consumer Decisions and Sustainable Behavior explains the Laboratory of the Department of Psychology in UNIGE’s Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences.

Solution: the right information

By interviewing more than 2,000 car drivers of different backgrounds and ages in Germany and the United States, UNIGE scientists have identified the source of cognitive biases that keep them from being want to use electric car. “We observed that participants underestimated capacity compatibility,” said Tobias Brosch, director of the Laboratory of Sustainable Behavior and Consumer Decisions and final author of the study. electric batteries in the current market with their real needs in a systematic way.

In other words, consumers mistakenly believe that the autonomy of the current battery is not enough to cover their daily journey. This underestimation is significant, with the researchers estimating it at around 30%. “To reassure everyone, the solution is not just to thicken the network of charging stations or to increase the size of batteries, which require scarcer resources such as lithium and cobalt. Mario Herberz explains that providing information tailored to motorists’ specific needs will reduce their concerns and increase their willingness to use electric vehicles.

250 km, ideal range

The team found that more than 90% of car trips could be completed with vehicles with a driving range of 200 km, a modest range among existing batteries. “The trend is for performance gains, but we have observed that greater range, such as beyond 300km, does not increase suitability for everyday needs. It will have only minimal impact on the number of additional trips that can be completed on a single charge. Therefore, increasing the size of the battery is not an important factor in the energy conversion process,” said Mario Herberz.

This study, funded in part by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, demonstrates the importance of psychological factors and related accessibility information when implementing energy transitions. It opens new avenues to promote the electrification of mobility with scientifically informed interventions, as a complement to conventional policy approaches.


JOURNEYS

Natural energy

DOI

10.1038 / s41560-022-01028-3

RESEARCH METHODS

Article

RESEARCH SUBJECTS

Everyone

ARTICLE TITLE

Combat electric vehicle range concerns with a scalable behavioral intervention

ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE

May 19, 2022

From EurekAlert!


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