Hybrid and Electric Cars: The gender dynamics of consumer tastes
How did green technology get its start? Here's a look at the evolution of automotive technology.
- 1769 : The self-propelled car is built for the first time
- 1801 : Britain invents steam-powered cars
- 1858 : Coal-gas engine invented
- 1876 : Four-stroke engine invented, named “Otto cycle” after creator Nikolaus August Otto.
- 1886 : Internal combustion engines take the scene, paving the way to the modern age of the automobile. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz of Germany both arrive at the invention separately at the same time.
- 1889 : Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor commence operations of the first motor company
- 1913 : Henry Ford invents the assembly line, allowing the Ford Motor Company to become the largest in the world.
- 1927 : Ford’s Model T makes car ownership a possibility for the mass consumer. 15 million are made, each taking ninety-three minutes to build.
- 1965 : Emissions regulations implemented in California, recognizing their harmful effects.
- 1973 : The Arab oil Embargo creates an Energy Crisis in America and the rest of the world, triggering fuel economy concerns in newly built automobiles.
- 1997 : Competing with limited worldwide oil reserves, car manufacturers begin to cave to pressures to create non-gasoline operated vehicles. Hybrids and electric cars are some of the resulting new technology. The age of green technology development begins.
- 2002: The first petrol/electric hybrids tested in Japan by Honda and Toyota and later sold in the American market.
Hybrid and Electric Cars and the Consumer
Electric and hybrid cars are better for the environment. However, their higher costs deter potential consumers. Difficulties adopting “refueling” stations, places to plug in vehicles, and the time needed to recharge vehicles compared to the distance they are able to run before recharging again, are major disadvantages at this time.
The average market analysis predicts that by 2020 electric cars will saturate 1% to 2% of the market. Currently California is one of the most promising geographic regions for car companies to introduce their new products. Considerable research has been done in Europe and consumers’ willingness to adopt the new technology. For example, in Germany 28.4% of consumers have expressed interest in a hybrid vehicle.
Hybrid and Electric Cars and Gender
Consumer knowledge of the auto industry’s advances in green technology has been rising. The company TNS/Infratest conducted a survey for the Continental Hybrid Study. They interviewed 1000 Germans in March of 2009 finding that 88.9% were aware of hybrid technology, compared to 86.9% in 2008 and 80% in 2007. For women, these numbers are lower but reflect the same positive trend with 79% of respondents aware of the technology in 2009 up from 75% in 2008 and 61.6% in 2007.
The price of hybrid and electric vehicles is a major obstacle for their integration into the mass market. In 2009 it was found that 39% of women considered buying a hybrid if it matched their target price compared to only 27.5% in 2007. These numbers are slightly higher for women than for men. In Germany under the Continental study, it was found that about 25% of female drivers would buy a hybrid vehicle, specifically because of environmental considerations.
For 28.4% of German men are considering the purchase of a hybrid car in the future.
In a study by Frost & Sullivan a global consulting firm found that women in European cities like London, Berlin Paris and Milan greatly disfavored the process of charging and monitoring that accompanies the necessary functioning of electric cars. In the same study it was found that men from the UK were most likely to adopt greener technology especially between the ages of 26-35 or older than 55 with very high disposable incomes.
Car design may also have an effect on the rate of adoption of electric and hybrid cars. There is still a strong correlation between sleek, fast cars and a driver’s desire to look “cool”. In Germany it was found that 19.9% of men considered the pleasure of driving more important than environmental considerations (which were the priority for 12% of men) New concept cars are being developed to fit the needs of this consumer, such as the Tesla Roadster S and the BWM vision both shown at the 2009 LA Auto Show.
German women are also more likely to drive environmentally conscious. Even when fuel prices dropped in 2009 women actually increased their usage of gas-saving driving techniques like pressing lighter on the accelerator.
Results from the TNS Survey demonstrate that slightly fewer women are aware of hybrid technology then men (Germany 2009). Of the women surveyed, those who are aware are more likely than men to desire to buy green technology vehicles. Concern for the environment is stated as the primary motive. However, despite a stronger desire from women inclined to the technology, men are actually more likely to end up purchashing green technology vehicles.