Drive Electric has been looking at different countries from around the world to understand the drivers for EV uptake. We have been assisted by the services of Carsten Weissman, an intern from Germany who is with Drive Electric for 9 weeks.
Looking at the data the first thing that stands out is the variation in uptake across countries. Norway is at the head of the field at some 25% of vehicles sales being electric. Yes they have incentives, but they have not changed their policies since the mid 2000s. Norway now has 74,000 EV. Denmark also has significant incentives but has only 4,000 EVs. So what is going on?
Understanding what drives EV uptake is now the focus of international research efforts. It appears that there is something going in addition to incentives driving EV uptake. Financial incentives, i.e. reductions in car prices, by themselves, are a poor explainer of the differences in EV uptake in different countries. Researchers have noticed this lack of causality and are struggling to explain it. There is something else other than financial incentives that drives EV uptake, yet no one has adequately defined what this “something else” is.
For example, part of the difference between Norway and Denmark could be that Norway has a nearly 100% renewable electricity system and EV owners know their cars are good from a climate change perspective. Denmark is 60% fossil fuel electricity generation and that is cited as a reason why people in Denmark do not see significant climate change benefits from EVs. What is known is that EV uptake is exponential. The sooner a country starts to focus on EVs, the sooner the uptake occurs.
A big question is whether coordination of actions related to EVs is enough or whether incentives plus coordination is the answer. The truth is that no one knows. What is also known is that potential EV owners need to see a coordinated suite of actions that give them confidence to invest in EV technology. Incentives without coordination leads to low EV uptake. The question is whether coordination with low incentives will result in high EV uptake. That is the experiment New Zealand may be about to begin.
EVs are a new technology and a vehicle is a significant outlay for a family, individual or a business. People making an investment in a vehicle need to have confidence in that investment and confidence takes a while to build in terms of vehicles. A key issue to EV uptake is how to build confidence in the technology.
What the international research is pointing to is that the social process of EV adoption is really important.
Drive an electric vehicle for a week or two and you will never want to go back. How do we get people in EV in the first place?