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Oxford team suggests realizing EV revolution will require much better understanding of consumer behavior, policy and industry support

Although the energy-saving and emissions reduction potential of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) technology has been shown, the scale of BEV diffusion necessary to decarbonize transport will not be realized without immediate and sustained policy support, industry investment and fundamental changes in consumer behavior, according to a team from the University the Oxford in a new paper.

The review, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, argues for an integrated approach to BEV diffusion that not only considers technological advancements but also the importance of better understanding consumer behavior—most importantly, how to incentivize early adoption, says Dr. Martino Tran, lead author.

Even with the most ambitious assumptions, BEVs may only provide a niche market over the next 20 years. Even then, this niche market will need to be supported during the early phases of diffusion. Policy can assist by providing free charging using renewable energy at publicly accessed parking places, but investors will need to anticipate under-utilization of charging infrastructure until the market matures. Industry could assist by exploring new business models such as vehicle leasing, which already makes up a share of US and UK vehicle markets. At present, BEVs are sold as a complete purchase, purchase of vehicle and lease of battery, and combined lease of vehicle and battery. Other models could include shared ownership or pay-as-you-go schemes similar to mobile phones.

Further attention should be given to the potential market for small short-range city BEVs, where there is opportunity to reduce range anxiety through public charging points or battery-swap stations. The costs of providing a low-speed leased BEV for local city use is far less than trying to replicate the current ownership model of all-purpose long-range ICE vehicle. Much of the literature assumes that the market is homogenous, but car manufacturers have been very successful in demonstrating a huge heterogeneity in the market. Within such an embryonic market we need to know more about the diffusion process, the characteristics of early adopters, and how potential buyers and leasers can be identified and incentivized.

—Tran et al.

Martino Tran and his colleagues reviewed the literature on electric vehicles, with a focus on market diffusion of full battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They drew mostly on evidence from Western Europe and North America. In their review, they assessed the key interactions between technology and behavior across different scales: system level, local level and consumer adoption.

System-level implications include the decarbonization of the grid and the addition of additional generation capacity. Although in theory electrifying transportation can achieve deep cuts in CO2 emissions, in practice, BEV deployment will be ineffective with high-carbon electricity. Decisions about the nature of electricity generation must be made within the next 10 years if those new deployments are to align with the next two to three vehicle-fleet cycles in which large-scale commercialization of BEVs is expected, the authors note, adding:

The scale of that challenge has not been fully appreciated in the policy discussion.

There is also some uncertainty over whether high BEV penetrations will require additional electricity generation capacity, and if so, over what period. Over the sort- to medium-terms, studies in the US and UK suggest that additional capacity will not be required.

However, predicting the need for additional capacity over the long term (until 2050 and beyond) is far less certain and will depend on the future grid mix and the degree of interaction with other sectors. Under a carbon-constrained scenario with high wind-power penetrations, more installed capacity would be required to meet electricity demand relative to a business-as-usual grid mix reliant on coal or nuclear.

—Tran et al.

Local-level implications include charging regimes; the purpose of trips; range anxiety; and battery performance and acceptance.

Consumer adoption behavior comprises willingness to pay, education, and social norms. Despite the results of some surveys that imply that large percentages of consumers could be incentivized to adopt BEVs, other results suggest that BEVs would have to be cost-competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles to trigger widespread adoption.

The lack of willingness to pay suggests that many consumers are poorly informed over the cost savings of BEVs and the causal link between fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, the authors note. “This suggests that there are important market failures in consumer decision-making about fuel economy.

...Empirical and theoretical work on innovation diffusion and environmental behaviour shows that consumers are influenced by their social groups and willing to comply with their norms. These findings indicate that government and industry need to more effectively communicate how BEVs can address both the financial concerns and social aspirations of potential adopters. There is scope for policy to be informed by new understanding of how information and innovations spread through social networks to identify potential adopters, and increase exposure, familiarity and knowledge about the benefits of BEVs.

—Tran et al.


  • Martino Tran, David Banister, Justin D. K. Bishop & Malcolm D. McCulloch (2012) Realizing the electric-vehicle revolution. Nature Climate Change 2, 328–333 doi: 10.1038/nclimate1429



Customer behavior change!!!

We have repeatedly been told and have accepted for so long that 200 Km/hour, 2.5+ tonnes, 5 to 8 passenger vehicles are an absolute necessity that we


"other results suggest that BEVs would have to be cost-competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles to trigger widespread adoption."

Duh!.. most people could give a fig about CO2 or carbon. Luckily there are several places in the world in which BEVs are the cost effective solution right now.. due to a combination of fuel prices, TCO and incentives.. luckily for the rest of us these countries should provide enough demand for real price reductions in future BEVs due to mass production


Bev don't make any sense for nobody. This is a product of big oil and goverments and actual car manufacturers. They do that to prove that there is no substitute to petrol but are doing false pr to cover it so they say we try to get off of oil but it's impossible we're sorry while casching billions from oil trading.


BEVs make sense for me.


It would be nice if they stopped using the term range anxiety. It only exists like AADD if you keep telling the hypochondriac nation that it does. How about you promote BEVs as commuters. That's where they belong, and some people do know the connection between total cost to operate and fuel costs. If they focus on just that one aspect of the vehicle, then only the misubishi I-miev and the Leaf are economic break evens, and then only for certain people. For the I-miev, city dwellers that have a typical 20 -30 mile round trip commute and Leaf owner that have a 60 mile round trip commute (approximately). Otherwise costs have got to come down on batteries and components for BEVs, that is if your primary concern is cost. If you can throw environment and patriotism in there (patriots don't buy oil from terrorist supporting countries), you have to figure what that is worth to you.

AD, oil is stuck right now. Much higher in price and many things become economical competitors. So thank the threat of cost effective electric vehicles for scaring the producers enough to keep them from driving the price of gas to $5 this summer, well that and consumption would drop. I don't think they (oil companies) want people to learn that life is still pretty good even when your not frivolously consuming a finite resource. Jeez, ya know, people might begin to think, "What else is it that I consume without thought that doesn't really improve my life". What a crazy day that would be and how sad for the poor wealthy people.

Roger Pham

If BEV revolution won't come soon enough, don't worry. ICE-HEV capable of 100 mpg running on carbon-neutral synthetic fuels will fill the gap. Toyota has plan for a 112-mpg 5-passenger vehicle in development. These type of vehicle carry a moderate-size fuel tank for just 1.5kg of H2 for 150-mile intra city range. For long trips, fill the same tank with methane and realize 450 mile range. Refill takes just a few minutes.


@ Roger Pham, Do you have any links to the toyota 112 mpg synthetic fuel , it interess me to know a little bit more about it, thanks.


Nobody had to scare me with, "range anxiety". I had my first and last experience with it 35 years ago.

I wouldn't even look at a BEV much less buy one. If the price and equipment was right, I would consider one with an on board gen-set, provided it had AWD.

That being said, I live in a very sparsely populated area in far western Wyoming. The nearest city is Salt Lake, 200 miles away.


This is where the Government must step in.

People are like lemmings - they assume that just because may not have easy access to Siberia, we cannot send social deviants to mental institutions as works so well for Russia.

There is no excuse for individual thinking.

All and every should not just buy BEVs we should want BEVs (and not eat hamburgers).

We need more laws.

Conformists UNITE.

Roger Pham

No, Toyota has not mentioned what kind of fuel the 112-mpg Ft-Bh concept car will use yet, but with direct injection, any ICE could be designed to run on H2 and Hythane (methane + 5% hydrogen) with simple spark ignition, or DICI mode for pure methane to get even longer range, well, a lot longer range.

A 112-mpg b-segment car (over 179-inch long) designed to carry 5 people surely has plenty of internal space to carry an H2 tank of 1.5kg capacity. That is only a little over a third of the tank size of the Honda FCV Clarity. Yet, its range on H2 is over 170 miles, while its range on synthetic Hythane will be ~450 miles, and on methane on DICI mode will be over 600 miles, due to the superior thermal efficiency of the latter technology!

Even though the H2/methane tank is round thus less space efficient, the lithium battery could be designed to fit around the fuel tank to make the combination fuel tank/battery into a square block to fit well under the rear seat, allowing a full trunk available for luggage.


RP...any idea when this dream car will come out?


You couldn't get me within a mile of that bomb.

Much less buy one.


I think all methane powered vehicles can handle 5% H2 in the mix.. the problem that most of these vehicles are not getting 100mpge, the best you can reasonably expect for a vehicle suitable for the public is Prius like levels of 50mpg


The American lifestyle includes the automobile. There is a good reason for this. It provides a level of personal mobility never before seen in human history. If all we ever did was commute, horses and bicycles and, yes, electric vehicles would suffice. But, that's not the case. I could go on and on about the American culture. But, simply look at our interstates. They are crammed full of long distance travelers. Sorry, but I don't want to be forced to own 2 vehicles, or heaven forbid, 3 cars. I want one car, that's affordable, efficient, fast, powerful, reliable, capable and will carry me, my friends, my tools, my gear, my stuff where ever I want to go, regardless of the distance. You know what works? The Toyota Camry. There is a reason the Camry is so popular. Would a Camry Hybrid work too? Yes, with a few trunk space issues and cost issues. That's about as much a sacrifice as the average American is willing to make. And, if I'm honest with myself, me too.

I love the Volt/Prius/Leaf/Zero motorcycle technology. But, it's not for me, my family, my needs, my wallet.

Baby Fishmouth

In my area, there are many empty nesters with two cars. One of those two cars would never need more than 50 miles of range. The other car would not need more than 50 miles of range for maybe 48 weeks per year.


cujet...my wife has been driving two trouble free Camrys for the last 27 years (14 + 13). She wants another new Toyota for 2013. We are undecided between a Prius III and the Camry XLE Hybrid. For now, the Prius (with about 10 options to match the Camry XLE Hybrid) seems to be ahead. With no more children home, the smaller 5-door Prius III with it's huge cargo space is well suited?


Oxford? I love reading these reports by people who will never have to worry about $10/gallon gasoline or the rising cost of living.

$10/gallon gas? Yeah, it's coming. But these rich snobs will never have the knowledge of dealing with it because they'll have little trusts and equity companies set up by daddy to ensure the family money keeps raking it in and paying for little Trevor's house on the beach.

Roger Pham

When this H2/NG Ft-Bh 112-mpge vehicle will come out will depend a lot on the price of gasoline trend in the next few years. The technologies for this vehicle is ready...it's just customers' acceptance for its lightness and styling in order to get the Cd down to 0.23 (very aerodynamic). May be in the next 5-7 years if gasoline continues to hover around $4/gallon US.

Bomb? Every gasoline-powered vehicle today is a potential bomb on wheel that can explode spectacularly in an otherwise survivable crash. By contrast, at over 5000 psi, the H2/NG tank is so strong that it will remain intact in a crash so severe that no occupant can survive. The multi-directional layers of carbon fiber is designed so that with excessive force, the tank may leak but not explode.

Good points. If the Prius is still too expensive for you, don't worry. The new Ft-Bh hybrid with a two-cylinder engine and smaller electric components will be a lot more affordable, especially when this new light-weight vehicle will be made with low-cost high-strength steel body structure instead of expensive carbon fiber. Even if it may cost a little more than a comparable non-hybrid vehicle, the 112 mpg will pay back itself in no time.
Don't you know that the Prius at 50 mpg will save you $13,000 in fuel cost after 200,000 miles in comparison to the Camry at 25 mpg? That calculation is for gasoline at $3.50/gal. Your saving will be greater at higher gasoline prices.

Roger Pham

Correction to above: The $ saving is $14,000 at gas price $3.5/gallon.

Henry Gibson

Artemis hydraulic hybrid technology with smaller engines per vehicle could cut fuel use in half. All future automotive engines should burn diesel combined with Autogas(propane-butane mix), DME, CNG, LNG or methanol.

Dewar Vacuum flasks can give LNG vehicles a very long range otherwise CNG or LPG(autogas) could also be used.

Perhaps someone should invent and make a vehicle that uses pure carbon as a fuel. Imagine a roll of carbon fiber being fed into an engine inch by inch. Liquid Ammonia is a highly neglected ZERO emissions fuel that might be used for rarely used range extenders.

The TATA nano, original CV2, original Volkswagon and original Ford model T should be considered as models for short trip electric city vehicles, but always with at least a small range extender. An average speed of 10 mph can be maintained with 2kW in a Prius weight vehicle; This can mean 30 mph between stops. A more than ten mile range is built up in the batteries in an hour of running the range extender whilst eating a meal. The range extender can heat the vehicle in cold weather.

Bladen Jets seems to be in a position to have a 50 kW range extender in the future that is less than a foot in all dimensions. A 2kW one need not weigh more than two or three kilograms.

ZEBRA battery cells have a very long life and can be made cheaply in mass production and can be used in stationary uses when removed from a vehicle for low capacity after about ten years. Individual working used cells can be built into UPS batteries. ..HG..


Denso Corp. (Japan) has developed and is producing a new more efficient air/con system for the driver seat only, to reduce energy consumption by 1/4 and more during hot and cold days. That special system is installed (as an option) on Lexus GS. It will be beneficial for electrified vehicles to increase e-range.


Yes...Prius replacements (NX-4 and Ft-Bh ?) in 2014/2015 will be much lighter (1800 to 2000 lbs) and will do 112+ mph with emission far below 99 g/Km. Those new vehicles and lighter more efficient ancillaries will be specially designed for electrified vehicles (not as ICEVs) for more range be battery charge. With improved lighter batteries, they will do 120+ mpg soon thereafter.

Toyota has a progressive design approach that will pay dividends for years to come.

By the way, Toyota's and Chrysler's sales are up around 30% in April while GM's and Ford's are down a notch.

Aaron Turpen

New study title: "Oxford researchers waste time and money studying the obvious."


"New study title: 'Oxford researchers waste time and money studying the obvious."

You're right, Aaron.

New title.
But old study.

Mr Red Rose120

this is nice post and having a good status in the market, it is also called a house of knowledge,

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