Rewriting the psychology of electric cars

When a suped-up Lotus Exige broke the UK land-speed record for electric vehicles at an astonishing 151mph, it blasted away the preconception that electric cars were glorified milk floats.

Consumer psychologists at London Metropolitan University are now working to debunk further myths about electric cars and reposition them in the mind of the consumer. 

Research by Dr Louise Bunce, Lecturer in Psychology, reveals many of the 340 motorists tested as part of a three month UK trial, now prefer electric vehicles to traditional petrol-power.

“Despite initial skepticism, drivers quickly adapted to the vehicles and were extremely positive about aspects of its performance, including its acceleration and speed,” Dr Bunce said. 

“Drivers soon discovered that recharging their vehicle was more convenient than having to stop en-route to refuel at a petrol station. Not to mention, it costs around a mere £2 to go 100 miles.

“There are zero tail-pipe emissions for the health-conscious and people felt environmentally and socially responsible while at the wheel.”

London Met Consumer Psychologist Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos is heading a new research project into how best to change the consumer mindset on electric cars.

“We want to look at the psychology and advertising techniques behind this industry and re-educate people,” he said.  

“The research shows that many believe electric cars to be a legitimate, affordable and convenient option for daily transport. With the government providing incentives to buy, like not having to pay road tax, sales should be strong.

“So few people in the UK have taken up the Government’s £5000 grant to help buy these cars; this means marketers need to reposition electric vehicles to consumers.”

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly called for the decarbonisation of road transport.

Electrification of the transport sector has the potential to make a significant contribution toward achieving this target: Dr Bunce believes that using an electric vehicle will not only help to reduce air pollution in our towns and cities but make travelling easier and more convenient for individuals.




Notes to editors:

About the research

These findings were based on largest systematic multi-regional and multi-vehicle research trial of Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles in the world, and involved over 340 drivers and plug-in electric vehicles as well as several car manufacturers, energy companies, local authorities, and infrastructure providers. Funded by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and carried out at Oxford Brookes University, the research gathered data on the experience of owning an electric vehicle from the drivers who used it in their daily lives for between 3-6 months. Data were obtained through extensive questionnaires and in-depth interviews that were carried out before the drivers received the electric vehicle, after using it for 1-week and then finally after 3-months.
The TSB is a government body aiming to promote economic growth through innovation.
ULCVs are defined as those capable of delivering tail pipe CO2 emissions of below 50g/km

About Dr Louise Bunce, CPsychol

Dr Bunce is a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society. She graduated with 1st Class Hons. degree in Psychology from Royal Holloway, University of London and was awarded a PhD from Oxford Brookes University. She was a Research Fellow in the psychology of Ultra low Carbon Vehicle Use at Oxford Brookes University, where she conducted the research referenced above on electric cars. She currently works as a Lecturer in Psychology at London Metropolitan University. She consults on the use of psychology in changing people’s attitudes and behaviour towards the use of green technologies.


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Nick Hansen
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London Metropolitan University
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