Plug-in electric vehicles produce limited or nonexistent tailpipe emissions, but upstream emissions from the electricity used to run them are highly variable depending on the source. PEVs need to be run on primarily green electricity (such as solar or wind power) for them to be a significant contributor to greenhouse gas reduction efforts. (For more information about PH&EV’s research on electricity, see Electricity Dispatch Model).
Consumer association of PEVs with green electricity has implications for the market success of these vehicles. This research project, conducted in 2011-2012, investigated responses of consumers to green electricity rates, plans, and messaging. Researchers conducted focus group interviews of PEV lessees and owners in different utility service areas and administered an online survey of conventional vehicle drivers and PEV drivers to understand interest in and valuation of low-carbon electricity.
It is possible to enroll PEV owners and lessees in green electricity utility plans. But is there enough demand for these programs?
Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), conventional vehicle (CV) and plug-in electric (PEV) buyers were given a hypothetical situation where they chose the type of vehicle they would buy next and their preferred electricity program (with the option to “switch” to one of several green electricity programs or continue with their current plan).
The green electricity program options included:
- No program or current green electricity (GE) program
- Enrollment in a monthly GE program through their electricity provider
- Enrollment in a 2 year GE lease program (paying to use electricity generated at a specific solar or wind facility)
- Purchase and installation of a residential rooftop solar system
- HEV buyers were more likely than CV buyers to want a PEV or to join a green electricity program.
- PEV buyers expressed the most interest in rooftop solar green electricity programs
- CV and HEV buyers were most motivated to join a green electricity program if they thought it would save them money on their electricity bill.
- PEV buyers were more motivated than CV and HEV buyers by concerns about oil politics and interest in new technology.
- Establishing a connection between PEVs and green electricity increased demand for PEVs for CV and HEV buyers.
- All three groups were similarly motivated by the environment, support for renewable energy, and control regarding electricity sources. Environmental concerns tended to be local, such as air quality, rather than global, such as climate change.
This study further confirms the connection between environmental attitude and interest in electric vehicles. The link between PEVs and green electricity is not yet strong, but initial interest exists and could grow if green electricity is framed well for the public. This could entail an emphasis on cost savings, air pollution reductions, and control over energy sources as potential benefits of participating in green electricity programs.