The Psychology of Vehicle Performance: Implications for the Uptake of Electric Vehicles

Skippon, Stephen Mark (2014). The Psychology of Vehicle Performance: Implications for the Uptake of Electric Vehicles. PhD thesis The Open University.



Road transport accounts for around 16% of global CO2 emissions, and electric vehicles (EVs) represent a potential mitigation route. High performance might offset the disadvantages of higher cost and short range that make their uptake problematic. This research investigated how consumer drivers construe, perceive and value vehicle performance. Research with UK drivers, using the repertory grid method, found that drivers construe vehicle performance as having two independent dimensions, dynamic and cruising performance. A new inter-goal dynamics and feedback control model of driving behaviour was developed to account for differences in the opportunities afforded to perceive vehicle performance in naturalistic driving. This was embedded in a Bayesian model for perception of available vehicle performance. Driving simulation and test track experiments with UK drivers found that: driving behaviour was strongly affected by goal activation; drivers could perceive performance differences in naturalistic driving, but only if they were large; the lowest perceptual difference threshold, for mid-range available vehicle acceleration, was 7.7%; smaller differences could affect driving behaviour (overtaking) through a process of implicit learning. The symbolic value of products is conferred by their symbolic meanings. Two new methods were developed to quantify symbolic meanings, grounded in costly signalling theory, which represents them in terms of personality traits of a typical user. The symbolic meanings of car types, performance attributes and driving styles were all measured. In a randomised controlled trial, UK consumer drivers rated an EV better on dynamic and cruising performance than a conventional ICE control, but this benefit was insufficient to outweigh the disadvantages. The symbolic meaning of an EV was found to be consistent with cruising performance, but inconsistent with dynamic performance. Extended-range EVs would have the dynamic and cruising performance benefits of EVs without the range disadvantages, and may be a desirable option for many once costs reduce.

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