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What Can Automakers Do To Cultivate More Female EV Drivers?

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I am in the relatively modest pool of female EV drivers who have come to love all-electric transportation. I was able to learn the in’s and out’s of owning and driving an EV from my car-guy spouse. However, not every female has a 1-to-1 opportunity to get schooled on the nuances of an EV and how it differs from driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

Really, when you think about it, it should be up to automakers and their affiliates to celebrate EVs in order to cultivate more female EV drivers — as well as other demographic groups who are curious about EVs. After all, it’s the automaker’s livelihood.

Did you know that people bought personal vehicles at big-box department stores, from the manufacturers themselves, and even at gas stations before World War II? A lot has changed since then. Many states have laws to protect auto dealers, including prohibitions against manufacturers selling directly to consumers. Yet many US buyers say car dealerships, which sell the majority of new vehicles, are not prepared for the electric transition.

Let’s figure out why females are hesitant to join the EV revolution. Then we can pose solutions that automakers can enact to capture this audience. Automakers, are you paying attention?

My guy offered me periodic tutorials: how and when to charge, what it takes to install a 240-volt EV charger in a carport, how to make regenerative braking work for you, the gift of an EV’s quick acceleration, considering the cost to own an EV over its lifetime, what you need to do to take advantage of tax credits, and the like. It seems as if automotive dealerships should be providing this instruction — after all, it’s in their best interest to be proactive, as a zero transportation emissions future is facing us all.

Several analyses outline why more females aren’t comfortable purchasing an EV for their next personal vehicle. We’ll start with new research from Geotab which unveils potential limiting factors on female EV adoption. Their findings say that, in Canada, males account for 74% of EV owners, and in the US, 72% of EV owners are males, indicating there are barriers for females in embracing EVs.

Problem: While 33% of US women are considering an EV as their next vehicle, nearly half of all US women surveyed (43%) noted easily accessible, well-lit charging stations in less remote areas would help convince them to purchase an EV – significantly higher than men (34%). In fact, 21% of US females surveyed consider increased security around charging stations as a factor that could influence their next vehicle purchase.

Solution: Automakers can make dealerships a community center in which much more than vehicle sales and service occurs on the premises. Think: BMW goes Barnes and Noble. Instead of slow chargers set behind buildings where staff smoke on breaks, dealers should strategically orient fast chargers so that they’re out front, fully illuminated, and at the center of other activities. Attract high profitability kiosks like Dunkin, Chick-fil-A, the UPS store, McDonald’s, Papa Johns, or Ace Hardware to set up shop. This consumer hub will attract interest to the dealership, including females, who make the majority of consumer household decisions.

We know that getting foot traffic on the dealer site is key to making sales. Successful dealerships rely heavily on foot traffic data to refine and improve their sales strategies, as automotive consultant group Affinitiv notes, and speaking with customers face-to-face offers a unique chance to establish a connection and convert prospects into active EV buyers. Making an automotive site a happening place definitely increases possibilities for converts to EVs.

Problem: Michael Harley of Forbes concurs with Geotab’s conclusion about the need to enhance EV charging safety to attract female EV drivers. Additionally, Harley states that potential female EV drivers — and many males, too — have gaps about how and why EVs are more technically advanced and less mechanically complex than their ICE counterparts.

Solution:  Harley proposes that educating consumers could provide insights into how EVs “offer more innovative conveniences (e.g., digital displays, adaptive cruise control, etc.), require less maintenance, and are more reliable than gasoline, diesel, or hybrid vehicles.” Because EVs can be fully charged at home, “owners may never need to visit a public charging station,” he continues. “Automakers must stress the EV advantages — add a strong value proposition — not sell with incentives and rebates.”

Problem: The team at Coast used data from the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Transportation to explore the state of EV charging infrastructure in the US. They found that “the US averages about 104 gas pumps per 1,000 road miles, compared to just 22 EV charging ports.” Considering that the typical EV needs about 25 minutes at a high-powered charger to restore 80% of the battery, that’s a long wait for an EV owner to tolerate.

Solution: Coast concludes that “ensuring convenient and accessible charging options is crucial for further growth and widespread acceptance of electric vehicles.” Governments, businesses, and utility companies are already designing plans to install more charging points in public places, shopping centers, workplaces, and residential areas. Automakers have a real opportunity to join in the movement and install banks of reliable, accessible, and convenient chargers at their dealerships. The costs to do so now will be an investment in the dealership’s future viability.

Final Thoughts

Automakers need to embrace EVs for their own continued success as well as proving that they are dedicated to improving the communities in which they sell their vehicles.

I’m also going to prod females to become more pro-active in filling in their own gaps around the electrification of transportation. If public education hasn’t provided a background in How Things Work, then a good portion of the responsibility goes to females as strong, independent individuals to seek out that information. I’d like to recommend the book Engineering in Plain Sight: An Illustrated Guide to the Constructed Environment, by Grady Hillhouse. It’s a wonderful compendium of the infrastructure that surrounds and supports our contemporary lives, with explanations of the parts that make up each whole. If you want to know more about electricity, for example, this book is for you.

Hillhouse’s book may empower females to take the next step to learn about EVs — whether their favorite local dealership wants to inform them or not.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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