Cognitive biases hinder the rise of electric vehicles., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize
Cognitive biases hinder the rise of electric vehicles., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize

Cognitive biases hinder the rise of electric vehicles. Subscribe to Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast for FREE!

What are the barriers to Electric Vehicle adoption? Although major financial and technical barriers have been removed, their market share still needs to be improved. In a recent study, a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) investigated which cognitive factors still prevent many from switching to electric vehicles. They found that owners systematically underestimated the capacity of the electric range for everyday needs. The findings, published in Nature Energy, open up new avenues for accelerating mobile electrification on top of traditional policy approaches.

The increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is one of the main causes of global warming. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide whose main emitter is the transport sector. Fossil fuel vehicles alone account for nearly 18% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, the electrification of fleets has become one of the main challenges of the energy transition.

The number of electric vehicles is increasing in many countries. However, they are still far from reaching the market share that can significantly reduce road traffic emissions. By 2020, they made up only 1% of the global fleet, including hybrids. To meet the 2030 climate target, this must be at least 12%

Now that the main financial and technical barriers (cheaper purchase price, financial incentives, denser network of charging stations) have been removed, what are the remaining Cognitive biases preventing widespread adoption of this mode of transportation? Much of the answer lies in drivers’ cognitive biases and shortcuts.

“Until now, initiatives related to the energy transition generally focused on the technological and financial barriers to their realization. Psychological factors have been given very little consideration. However, many studies show that individuals do not automatically adopt the behaviors most beneficial for themselves or society, often due to a lack of access to complete information,” explains Mario Herberz, first author of the study and researcher at the Consumer Decision and Sustainable Behavior Laboratory of the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the UNIGE

By surveying more than 2,000 drivers of different origins and ages in Germany and the United States, UNIGE scientists have identified the source of the cognitive biases that hinder their use of electric vehicles. “We found that participants systematically underestimated the compatibility of battery capacities currently available on the market with their actual needs,” said Tobias Brosch, director of the Consumer Decision and Sustainable Behavior Laboratory and senior author of the study.

In other words, consumers mistakenly believe that the autonomy of current batteries is not sufficient for their daily mobility needs. This underestimation is significant, the researchers estimate to be around 30 percent. “To reassure people, the solution is not just to increase the density of the network of charging stations or increase the size of batteries that require scarce resources such as lithium and cobalt. It is the information tailored to the specific needs of drivers that can reduce their concerns and increase their willingness to switch to electric vehicles,” explains Mario Herberz.

The team found that more than 90 percent of car trips could use a vehicle with a range of 200 kilometers, which is mid-range among currently available batteries. “The trend is to improve performance, but we observed that longer ranges, such as more than 300 km, do not increase daily usability. It has little impact on the number of additional trips that can be done on a charge. So expanding the battery is a core element of transformation,” said Mario Herberz.

This study, partly funded by the Swiss Federal Office for Energy, demonstrates the importance of psychological factors and access to relevant information in implementing the energy transition. It opens up new avenues for advancing mobility electrification through science-based interventions to complement traditional policy approaches.

With just eight years to go before the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, it is important to reflect this trend, with Battery Electric Vehicle registrations up 79% year-on-year in March this year, with Battery Electric Vehicle sales in the UK surpassing all of 2019 , is not expected to slow down anytime soon. Therefore, it is critical that the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles keeps pace.

Property developers are in a unique position to drive this change by flooding new homes with Electric Vehicle chargers, and policymakers are taking notice. Late last year, the UK government introduced legislation requiring all new buildings to charge electric vehicles – a major challenge for residential and commercial developers.

While the new legislation is good news in support of the transition to electric vehicles, it is not without risks. In fact, installing new chargers could become a way to install cheap, low-quality infrastructure at scale in the short term to comply with legislation. In the long run, that means poor-quality chargers break down and need to be replaced more frequently, threatening consumer confidence in EVs and driving up overall costs for developers and owners.

By taking a responsible long-term approach to Electric Vehicle charging, developers can do more than just support the transition to EVs, they can also gain a key competitive advantage – a Rightmove survey last year found that the number of people using Electric Vehicle charging has increased sixfold as the device sells and becomes more important to homebuyers.

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Cognitive biases hinder the rise of electric vehicles., Electric Vehicle News Bitesize
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