EV Adoption Success Need Not Rely On Public Charging Infrastructure, Research Finds

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Consumer interest in electric vehicles (EV) appears to not be reliant upon an awareness of public charging infrastructure, according to a new study from the Simon Fraser University Faculty of Environment.

To put that perhaps a bit more bluntly — awareness of public chargers appears to have little to no impact on consumers’ interest in EVs. (I guess this is the second EV “boogeyman” we are busting today.)

nissan leafs charging Japan

The findings suggest that support of rapid EV adoption need not be dependent upon a rapid buildout of charging stations and infrastructure — rather, what’s needed (especially for particularly cash-strapped governments) is simply to increase access to charging infrastructure at the places where people live.

“When we account for the relevant factors, our analysis suggests that the relationship between public charger awareness and plug-in electric vehicle demand is weak or non-existent,” stated study lead author Jonn Axsen.

“In other words, the installation of public chargers might not be the best way to encourage growth in the electric vehicle market.

“This finding is particularly relevant for British Columbia, which recently announced that it will revive the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, a program that supports the adoption of vehicles powered by electricity and other alternative fuels. The provincial government has yet to announce how renewal funds will be spent.”


The new findings are based on data collected via a representative sample of 1739 new vehicle–buying households in the country of Canada — 536 of which were in the province of British Columbia. These households were queried about the public charging available in the area, as well as their interest in purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle.

The findings were pretty clear: The data showed that British Columbia’s Clean Energy Vehicle program — which installed almost 500 public chargers when the survey was conducted in 2013 — was largely successful in increasing charger awareness. Almost one-third of British Columbian respondents had seen at least one public charger, compared to only 13% of respondents in the rest of Canada.

However, that awareness didn’t necessarily translate into increased plug-in electric vehicle interest.

The findings also showed that prospective buyers were considerably more interested in plug-in hybrids than in pure electric vehicles.

“Since cars such as the Chevy Volt don’t rely only on electricity, potential buyers aren’t concerned about public charging,” stated researcher Joseph Bailey. “People can just recharge at home, and then drive wherever they want on any given day. The good news is that about two-thirds of car buyers already have some type of charging access at home.”

“Given what we’ve seen here, it seems wise for governments to focus their money on incentives other than public electric vehicle chargers,” stated researcher Amy Axsen. “We know that purchase rebates can spark consumer interest, and we’ve shown that home charging is important. In combination with the implementation of a Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate like California’s, these measures could be the biggest boosters of electric vehicle sales.”

The new findings are detailed in a paper punished in the peer reviewed journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.

Image Credit: Nissan

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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