Electric cars not 'macho' enough for some men - survey

The New Zealand Transport Agency this month issued a pre-tender notice to gather market...
A poll of Kiwi EV owners found the powerful thrum of an internal combustion engine was apparently more manly than the calm quiet of an electric engine - something more likely to appeal to women. Photo: Getty Images

Range anxiety - or the fear of running out of power on longer trips - has been one of the biggest turn-offs facing electric vehicle ownership.

Now a survey has thrown up another: some blokes won't buy one because it might dent their macho image.

A poll of Kiwi EV owners found the powerful thrum of an internal combustion engine was apparently more manly than the calm quiet of an electric engine - something more likely to appeal to women.

Just over 60% on respondents to the survey, run by a New Zealand citizen science project dubbed Flip the Fleet, agreed men and women were equally likely to switch to an EV - but those who disagreed offered illuminating reasons.

One EV owner reported promoting the climate-friendly mobiles each weekend at a farmer's market, and typically found tech-savvy youngsters and mums who wanted a safe, practical and cash-saving car were on board with the idea.

But Dad, "rarely, if ever, gets it", they added.

"No noise, no smell, no oil, no mess – how can this be good? The dad is 97.5% likely to be the dinosaur."

Respondents also believed women tended to be more conscious of the environment, and that made them more engaged in their EVs.

There was also wide disparity on perceptions of how men and women handle the technical side of EVs.

Most felt that generally men were more technically minded and therefore more comfortable with charging the EV and monitoring its battery condition and range.

This, the survey organisers suspected, may be reflected in women being more prone to range anxiety.

The findings were in line with recent research by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), showing that although men were still slightly more likely than women to consider buying a battery EV, interest from women was rising faster.

Flip the Fleet spokesman Joe Camuso said quizzing people on how attitudes towards EVs varied between the sexes had been questioned. One respondent called the query "pointless".

But, he added, advocacy messages around EVs needed to better include gender preferences, and cover everything that drove drivers to switch.

"Cars are no longer just men's talk," Camuso said.

"But how often do you meet a woman selling cars on a dealers' forecourt? Nor are EVs just for greenies.

"If we don't get more inclusive in our advertising and messaging, there is a real risk that we will talk past a key part of the buying public: the women out there who are increasingly leading the switch to electric."

Despite the wide range of opinions about the importance of gender for the pitch, there was widespread consensus on one key strategy.

"Put a man or a woman behind the wheel for a test drive, and they are sold in a minute. It's a fast, quiet and comfortable ride," Camuso said.

"Later, you can fill in that they are also good for your purse and the planet."

Flip the Fleet, which regularly polls more than 700 EV owners across the country and is likened to a "Fitbit for EVs", has turned up several important insights since it was launched last year.

It's found most EV owners aren't experiencing range anxiety, prefer charging at home rather than away, and wouldn't go back to petrol.

New Zealand aims get 64,000 EVs on our roads by 2021, including one third of Government vehicles, through incentives such as allowing them to use special vehicle lanes, exempting them from road user charges and subsidising projects through the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.

As of February, 6884 EVs were registered in New Zealand - half of them in Auckland - and the fleet size had grown from 192 in 2013, to 1150 in 2016 and 2980 in 2017.

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