By Nicolette Caperello, Jennifer TyreeHageman, Ken Kurani
This research examines early drivers of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) from a gendered perspective. Women and men may have differing responses to the new performance attributes of PEVs, for example, the relationship between driving range per battery charge and charging locations. Without knowledge of such potential differences, PEV sales and charging infrastructure deployment may create differential barriers and opportunities for women and men. Thus, understanding any gender differences is vital to policy, marketing, and infrastructure development for electric-mobility to ensure that sustainable mobility is appealing and accessible to all people. Clarifying gender differences in the experience of PEV drivers would also broaden the understanding of the persistence of gender roles in travel behavior. We pose two primary questions. (1) How does the speech of women and men PEV drivers compare? (2) What factors contribute to observed differences and similarities? Data are from two sets of focus groups conducted in 2011 and 2012 as PEVs entered the market in California. A content analysis of the themes in these group conversations reveals that, while women and men talk about their experience in many ways that are similar, there are important differences. Within some themes, women are more likely to talk about their PEV in terms of its practicality as a travel tool and adapting to the present system of vehicle charging. Conversely, within these same themes men are more likely to talk in terms of research and development and how the system should change. The voices of women PEV drivers are underrepresented in conversations regarding future policy, marketing, and technology development both because there are so many fewer women PEV drivers and because the content of women and men’s speech differ.