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An examination of the factors influencing the decision to adopt alternative fuel vehicles

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posted on 11.11.2014, 12:03 by Amy R. Campbell
Concerns over the environmental impacts of the transport sector have led to the United Kingdom (UK) Government establishing a legally binding commitment of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (relative to the 1990 baseline) through the Climate Change Act 2008. The decarbonisation of the transport sector by 2050 will substantially contribute towards achieving this target. Technological innovations, therefore, have an important role in supporting policy objectives. One innovation that is being developed for this purpose in the transport sector is an alternative fuel vehicle. While there are several alternative fuel vehicle technologies, the only two with zero tailpipe (exhaust) emissions are battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Both of these technologies are not yet at a stage in their development where they can successfully compete with conventional fuel vehicles (internal combustion engine vehicles). They face a variety of technological hurdles that include range, performance, cost, and infrastructure. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not commercially available, although battery electric vehicles have been on the commercial market for several years. Uptake of alternative fuel vehicles is occurring at a slower pace than hoped by policy makers and manufacturers. The aim of this thesis is to examine the factors influencing the decision to adopt an alternative fuel vehicle, and is underpinned by Rogers (2003) Diffusion of Innovations theory. The Innovation-Decision Process from this theory posits that an individual must first know about an innovation before forming an attitude about it. Innovativeness is instrumental in determining the knowledge an individual has of an innovation and how early in the diffusion process they are likely to become an adopter. Perceptions of the innovation are influential in forming an attitude towards it. The focus of the research is on Birmingham, the UK s second largest city. The first stage of the research involves establishing the locations of individuals across the city that possess socio-demographic characteristics associated with early adopters of alternative fuel vehicles. This is achieved by applying cluster analysis to Birmingham census data, which enabled the identification of a strong spatial cluster of potential early adopters in the suburb of Sutton Coldfield. In the second stage of the research, a household questionnaire was undertaken with 413 respondents in Sutton Coldfield. The analysis of the questionnaire data firstly involves the verification of the early adopter characteristics from stage one by examining the relationship of these characteristics with innovativeness. Analysis is then undertaken of the level of knowledge and the perceptions that the respondents have of alternative fuel vehicles. The final step in the analysis is an evaluation of the characteristics of current models of electric vehicles and how well aligned they are with the driving needs and vehicle expectations of respondents. The results confirm that the knowledge of alternative fuel vehicles is limited and individual perceptions have led to the development of negative attitudes towards them. Socio-demographic characteristics were significant in influencing these factors. There were 5% (21) of respondents who have previously considered the adoption of an electric vehicle but have not yet done so. There is evidence from the survey of active rejection among a small number of respondents. The reasons largely relate to three problems: purchase price, limited range, and poor infrastructure availability. However, the majority of respondents have passively rejected alternative fuel vehicles, such that they have never given consideration to the adoption of one. This confirms that a concerted effort is required to inform the general public about alternative fuel vehicles. Opportunities for increasing adoption have been identified for policy and marketing, including education and awareness-raising campaigns.





  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


© Amy Campbell

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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