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Electromobility: More Customer Knowledge Needed

In the current energy debate, electric vehicles are increasingly becoming the focus of public attention. But what do Swiss consumers know about this topic? While the demand for plug-in vehicles continues to grow, a study by the ZHAW School of Management and Law shows that there is still a great need to know more about electromobility.

Electromobility is currently one of the key drivers in the automotive industry. The makers of all the relevant brands are working flat out to electrify their vehicle ranges. By the end of 2035, many intend to dispense with internal combustion engines entirely. The demand for electromobility is also steadily gaining momentum on the customer side: At the end of October 2022, electric vehicles and plug-in vehicles already accounted for 24.4 percent of all new registrations.

One of the critical challenges for electromobility is consumers’ know-how, which is (still) insufficient. This knowledge gap is a challenge not only for car dealers and importers but also for consumers who want to be better informed. To close it, the Institute of Information Technology at the School of Management and Law conducted a written survey in July 2022 to gain a clearer picture of what consumers in Switzerland know about electromobility and the relevant purchase decision criteria. The project, which was a collaboration with the Swiss Association of Car Dealerships (AGVS), was headed by. Dr. Andreas Block.

Expandable Consumer Knowledge

In the first step, 383 respondents were asked to assess their knowledge of electromobility. 26.6 percent rated their knowledge as "high" or "rather high," another 39.7 percent as "average", and 33.7 percent as "rather low" or "low. Interestingly, men rated their knowledge as significantly higher than women: While 37.8 percent of the men rated their knowledge as "high" or "rather high," the corresponding figure for women was 16.2 percent.

Rationality Before Emotionality

Next, the study examined consumers’ criteria for buying an electric vehicle. Dr. Andreas Block says: "What is striking here is that the rational aspects tend to be weighted more highly. The three most important decision criteria are the life expectancy of the battery, the service life of the vehicle, and the vehicle quality." Emotional criteria such as brand characteristics and prestige were found to contribute far less than expected to the decision to buy an electric vehicle.

Call for Clarification

Car manufacturers are called upon to offer clarification and ensure that consumers are aware of the actual price ranges for their vehicles. In addition to supplying pure product information, transparent sample calculations of charging costs and times would be helpful. To provide a comprehensive service, sales staff in car dealerships must also have the necessary knowledge. The AGVS can provide support in that respect, for example, by offering electromobility training courses aimed at employees of car dealerships and related service providers. "The government should also be proactive in providing more consistent information about the public charging infrastructure and its utilization rates through various communication channels," concludes Dr. Andreas Block.