Test driving EVs feeds ‘early adopter’ ego, promoting purchasing

Ohio State University experts believe the connection between trying and buying an electric vehicle is rooted in people self-identifying as consumer tech pioneers. 

While the idea that we are more likely to purchase something after we test it out seems logical, the US team behind a new research argue that there is more to this retail journey than simply seeing if something works, and, if so, how well it performs.  

persons eye in close up photography

Findings published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show what happened when 729 people participated in two tandem studies; one, a virtual test drive simulation, the other run in partnership with the Columbus city mobility technology platform, Smart Columbus, offering a chance to actually drive a real EV. Individuals could pick which tranche they were involved in. 

Everyone was asked before and after their test drive how owning an EV would influence their self-perception and how the car would impact they way others see them. Only after the trial were they asked the likelihood of either buying one of the cars themselves, or recommending to a friend. 

Three types of private symbolic meaning attached to owning EVs were focused on. These were pro-environment, early adopter of new technologies, and car authority. In a bid to understand public meaning, the survey asked participants to report the extent to which they saw EV ownership as saying something about who they are. In the virtual setting, all visible branding and sound were removed.

Various features of the car were highlighted and explained, however some in this group were told they were experiencing a conventional, petroleum-powered model. Others were told it was an EV model not yet on the market. From pre-to-post drive, the latter experience strengthened the perception that EVs are an expressive object, and cemented the early adopter self image. 

‘We didn’t see that for those who were told they were test-driving a conventional vehicle,’ said Nicole Sintov, a faculty member in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and Associate Professor of Behavior at Ohio State University. ‘They had the same stimuli, but telling them it was one thing or another obviously changed the perceptions not only of the vehicle, but of themselves.

By comparison, those who went for a ‘real life’ test drive also experienced enhanced public and private symbolic meanings, specifically early adopter and car authority, but only the personal side of this led to stronger intentions to buy. We really wanted to parse these things out more concretely than previous studies on EV symbolic meanings have – all in the context of whether a test drive moves things,’ said Sintov. 

‘If EV marketing efforts focus on saying, ‘Look at you – you have cool person status,’ that is not the route we identified,’ she continued. “‘How do I think about myself differently after this test drive, and in particular, how do I see myself differently in terms of being an early adopter of technology?’ That is what makes people want to buy the car.’

In other recent news, PepsiCo is now operating deliveries on the US West Coast using the Tesla Semi electric-powered truck

Image: Abbat





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