Researchers from Ohio State University have found that test driving an electric vehicle (EV) may increase the likelihood of purchase. The study, ‘Give it a Try! How electric vehicle test drives influence symbolism perceptions and adoption intent,’ was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
Researchers discovered that test driving an electric car strengthens potential customers’ personal identification as early adopters of cutting-edge technology. This heightened perception of being a timely user of new technology improves the possibility that the test driver will be interested in purchasing the automobile. Despite the fact that the test drive increased participants’ view that an electric vehicle may serve as a status symbol, this expectation did not result in a purchase.
The study, ‘Give it a Try! How Electric Vehicle Test Drives Influence Symbolism Perceptions and Adoption Intent,’ published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, aims to improve understanding of what motivates consumer behaviour behind sustainability-related purchases, and provides insights that could help guide electric vehicle marketing efforts.
EV Test Drives
The study was carried out by Atar Herziger, a former postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University who is now on the faculty of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Nicole Sintov, Associate Professor of behaviour, decision making, and sustainability at Ohio State University.
The researchers wanted to know if and how an electric car test drive affects two types of symbolic meaning: private meaning, which supports an individual’s self-perception, and public meaning, which influences how others see the EV owner. Is the potential buyer’s desire to make a purchase influenced if a test drive changes such meanings?
“An electric car might symbolise different things to different individuals – it’s not going to be the same across the board,” Sintov said. That is why it is critical to understand the many attributes that an EV might express.
“We discovered that EV test drives had a lot of potential to impact how individuals think of themselves – and that this was connected to higher purchase intent.”
The researchers carried out two studies: one was a randomised experiment using a virtual test drive, and the other was a collaboration with Smart Columbus to poll persons who choose to engage in an EV test driving experience.
In these two studies, 729 participants were asked to assess how owning an electric vehicle would alter their self-perception and how others would see them before and after the test drive. Following the test drive, they were asked if they would buy or lease the EV or suggest it to a friend.
The study focused on three forms of private symbolic meanings associated with having an electric vehicle: being pro-environment, an early user of new technology, or a car authority. The study also questioned individuals to rate how much they believed driving an EV said about the type of person they are in public.
The researchers utilised a similar video for the virtual test drive, removing all visible branding and sound from an EV vehicle that is not currently available in the United States. The virtual test drive took participants on a brief journey from the driver’s perspective and demonstrated how interior elements functioned. The only difference was that some of the participants were informed that the automobile was a standard.
In India, the adoption rate of electric vehicles (EVs) is now at 2%. This is mostly owing to significant pricing disparities with traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, as well as a lack of suitable charging infrastructure.
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