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Research: “Do You Mind If I Plug-in My Car?”

How EV Etiquette Shapes Charging Behavior

For the PEV industry to grow, industry observers note that public charging must be encouraged. In a research study called “Do You Mind if I Plug-in My Car? How etiquette shapes PEV drivers’ vehicle charging behavior“,  a team from UC Davis looked at attitudes and expectations for EV charging at home, in public, and at work.

Drivers report a lack of etiquette, i.e., rules to guide their behavior and their expectations of how other PEV drivers ought to behave in the new social interactions. PEV drivers want widely shared, understood, and practiced charging guidelines in order to feel comfortable and confident in charging away-from-home.

People are resistant to change because of uncertainty and having a standard of conduct like the EV Rules is necessary for these shared spaces to succeed.  When EV drivers visit a charging station, it’s important to know what to expect and what is expected of them.  

Highlights

• PEV drivers engage in a new behavior: plugging the car into the electrical grid.
PEV drivers want widely used and understood charging guidelines to feel comfortable.
• A lack of charging etiquette occasionally inhibited away from home charging.
• Workplace charging adds layers of rules and resources that impact charging.
• New rules and regulations may create as much uncertainty as guidance.

Abstract

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) engage drivers in an essential new behavior—plugging the car into the electrical grid to charge the vehicles’ batteries. Broadly, it has been assumed that (1) away-from-home charging is necessary to grow the PEV market and (2) if away-from-home charging infrastructure is in place and PEV drivers know of it, they will perceive opportunities to charge. The experiences of early PEV drivers cause us to rethink at least the second of these assumptions.

Drivers report a lack of what they call “etiquette,” i.e., rules to guide their behavior and their expectations of how they and other PEV drivers ought to behave in these new social interactions. PEV drivers want widely shared, understood, and practiced guidelines to feel comfortable and confident in charging their vehicles away from home. This study uses inductive thematic analysis of transcripts of interviews of 28 PEV driving households conducted in San Diego County, California in spring, 2012.

Themes about etiquette emerged within two types of away from home charging. First, public chargers (available to any PEV driver) were the sites of situations in which drivers’ perceived a lack of rules or conflicts between different systems of rules; both were described as inhibiting use of public chargers. Second, workplace charging (typically available only to employees of the entity where the charger is located) adds an additional layer of rules and possibly resources that may either inhibit or encourage PEV charging by employees. As PEV markets and charger networks grow, charging will be shaped by additional systems of rules and regulations, e.g., those governing financial transactions.

Our results suggest that absent efforts to help PEV drivers develop, learn, and practice the new rules, they may create as much uncertainty as guidance.

Download Report as a PDF


Citation: Caperello, Nicolette, Kenneth S. Kurani, Jennifer TyreeHageman (2012) Do You Mind If I Plug-in My Car? How Etiquette Shapes PEV Drivers’ Vehicle Charging Behavior. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-12-42

Sean

I drive a Nissan Leaf and am fascinated by technology and automobiles.

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