Car buyers are more likely to buy a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) if they know that the electricity used to charge it is from a renewable energy source, according to a study in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

Researchers in Canada and the US found that there was a 23% increase in demand for PEVs when buyers of conventional cars were offered a green electricity programme together with an electric vehicle.

Jonn Axsen from Canada’s Simon Fraser University and Kenneth Kurani of the University of California, Davis, US surveyed three different types of American car buyers: conventional new vehicle buyers, hybrid vehicle buyers and PEV buyers.

They asked the respondents to state their interest in a PEV as their next vehicle; in purchasing green electricity; and in combining the two products. “We found that combining, for example, a solar-cell system installation with the sale of a PEV made it a more attractive purchase,” Axsen tells environmentalresearchweb. “We were expecting a small increase in interest, but did not expect a 23% increase in demand from conventional car buyers.”

Overall, Axsen and Kurani discovered that about one-third of conventional car buyers value the combination of a PEV with green electricity; the proportion is much higher among previous buyers of hybrid or plug-in electric vehicles.

“We have shown that offering a combination of a PEV with a green-energy package can increase demand for PEVs,” says Axsen. “Some car manufacturers, specifically BMW, are already offering this combination of products and we can envisage that other manufacturers may do the same as a way of stimulating demand.”

The survey revealed that when choosing PEVs or hybrid vehicles, car buyers are not motivated by climate change but by issues closer to home. “Most of the people we surveyed who were interested in buying a PEV or hybrid were concerned about local air pollution and about saving money,” concludes Axsen.

Axsen and colleagues published their work in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

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