Research - 06.07.2021 - 00:00 

Electrifying the company car: adoption of e-mobility in a B2B context

Electric mobility plays an important part in the transition to a more sustainable transport system. To what extent the expansion of e-mobility in company fleets can be accelerated is investigated in a research project of the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ-HSG).

6 July 2021. A new research project explores the social acceptance of e-mobility as a prerequisite for a successful adoption of electric vehicles in Swiss corporate fleets and asks whether acceptance-related barriers can be observed and if so, how they can be addressed.

“Despite the many advantages of electric mobility, its share in the overall number of vehicles is still low in a worldwide comparison,” says Dr. Pascal Vuichard, programme manager and member of the research staff at the Institute for Economy and the Environment at the HSG. Barriers such as limited charging infrastructure and higher investment costs alone do not completely explain the slow adoption of e-mobility in Switzerland. 

Two studies measure social acceptance 

In two studies, Pascal Vuichard looked at the extent to which social acceptance can increase the utilisation and the market share of e-vehicles in corporate fleets. An overview of the two combined studies:

  • Study 1: the quantitative online survey of fleet managers in Switzerland investigated motivators for and barriers against the introduction of e-mobility in corporate fleets. The survey confirmed the assumption that there are significant acceptance-related barriers.
  • Study 2: the field experiment with corporate car users in the city of St.Gallen examined whether the acceptance-related barriers identified in Study 1 could be addressed with a specific campaign (Wirtschaft unter Strom, which can be translated as “business charged up”) and thus whether social acceptance and the likelihood of e-vehicles being introduced to fleets could be increased.

"Wirtschaft unter Strom" campaign

The "Wirtschaft unter Strom" campaign ran a website which provided companies with an opportunity to book free one-week test drives with an electric car of their choice in normal day-to-day business life. A temporary charging infrastructure was also made available; it was installed by St.Gallen’s municipal utility. The test persons were interviewed both before and after the test week. By doing so, the longitudinal element of the field experiment allowed to determine the degree of acceptance of important categories related to electric mobility before and after the test drive.

Lack of knowledge and lack of demand 

The results of Study 1 confirm the significance of acceptance-related barriers. “Lack of knowledge” (63% of the interviewees) and “lack of demand on the part of employees” (56% of the interviewees) can be identified as important barriers. On this basis, Study 2 then examined how these barriers could be addressed and reduced. An increase in acceptance and knowledge was registered with regard to all the criteria related to electric mobility (range, price, user-friendliness, enthusiasm, charging infrastructure, eco-friendliness). This generally positive effect is indicative of the effectiveness of the targeted campaign. Owing to the specific nature of the field experiment, a broad generalisation cannot be claimed, but the results show that specific campaigns targeted at acceptance-related barriers can at least make an important contribution towards an increase in social acceptance.

Cooperation with cities and municipalities 

It is recommended that the Wirtschaft unter Strom campaign should be replicated and/or adapted by cities and municipalities and be integrated into their local mobility concepts. This could be particularly interesting since municipal measures have so far mainly targeted private vehicle users. Furthermore, the results of the two studies serve as guidelines for car dealers, since the introduction of a test drive programme for corporate customers that lasts several days might boost the sales of electric vehicles as car dealers are still one of the most important touchpoints in the e-mobility purchasing process. In addition, the involvement of trade associations and chambers of commerce is recommendable – this could lead to a further increase in the range of the campaign with the overall aim of a sustainable mobility future.

Image: Adobe Stock / classen rafael/EyeEm

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