CSE Leadership Shares Electric Vehicle Findings at Forth Roadmap Conference


By Sara Tajik

July 1, 2019

Co-authored by Brett Williams

The electric vehicle industry is growing and changing quickly, and CSE’s real-time program data and field outreach experiences discover these changes firsthand and respond with valuable market insights.

At the Forth Roadmap 12 conference, held June 18-19 in Oregon, four CSE clean transportation leaders presented unique industry findings from electric vehicle (EV) and electric vehicle infrastructure (EVI) programs administered by the center. The leading electric and smart mobility conference in the nation, Forth Roadmap annually brings together utility and government stakeholders, automakers, charging providers and other industry leaders.

CSE’s presence at Forth is representative of the knowledge our staff has gained in EV-EVI program design, marketing and research, particularly for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) and the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP). Here’s an overview of their presentations.

Overcoming dealership barriers

Informing consumers about EVs and CVRP incentives depends largely on dealership sales staff, so working within their business model is critical to incentive program success, according to EV Dealership Specialist Joe Ficalora.

Having worked for dealerships, Ficalora understands that for sales staff who operate on commission, time is money. In their environment, communication over the phone, email or via the internet has considerably less impact than in-person contact. That’s why CVRP’s dealership marketing efforts have shifted toward in-person outreach efforts that resulted in 1,188 visits to dealerships across California in 2019.

The outreach team goes to dealerships armed with information and handouts that help sales staff answer consumer questions and concerns about such aspects as charging opportunities, range anxiety and maintenance. Ficalora points out that these visits and materials reduce some of the additional time electric vehicle sales typically take and provide greater EV awareness at the center of the car-shopping experience.

Equity in EV Ownership

California has set its sights on prioritizing investments in the state’s EV marketplace that work toward achieving social, economic and environmental equity by supporting programs that promote and provide affordable access to EVs, according to Equity Transportation Senior Project Manager Lauri Walker.

CVRP offers car shoppers in low income and communities of color increased rebates amounts that lower upfront costs and, potentially, monthly payments. To get the word out, the equity team focuses on reaching residents in disadvantaged communities through partnering with community-based organizations (CBOs) that are deeply established in the community and trusted sources of information. To help bridge any language gaps, CVRP offers its website and written materials in Spanish.

Breaking down barriers to EV adoption is to not only to utilize CBOs, but to truly understand and listen to community leaders about what type of outreach works in their communities.

Walker reports that CVRP surveys of EV purchasers living in disadvantaged communities across the state who received CVRP incentives showed that more than 80% said the rebate was very or extremely important in their decision to drive electric.

Who buys EVs?

As we move the EV adoption into the mainstream market, we increasingly need to learn about people who are not predisposed to acquiring an EV. Transportation Principal Advisor Brett Williams explains that these consumers include those highly influenced by incentives, rebate essential consumers, and those who weren’t necessarily interested in EVs when they began looking for a new vehicle, known as converts. When we understand and can better communicate to these consumer segments, we can expand the EV market into new frontiers.

Brett’s presentation took the unique combination of factors that characterize a target market segment, like EV converts, and summarized them into descriptive profiles. When compared with CVRP participants more broadly, EV converts are more likely to be of a younger age group, not spend much time researching EVs online and not be highly motivated by reducing environmental impacts or HOV lane access. Furthermore, converts who purchased a battery EV are less likely to identify as Caucasian, more likely to be women, have a lower household income, not have access to workplace charging and to fall into the rebate essential category.

EV converts are a small yet important slice of the existing market, because their journey from disinterest all the way to ownership is one that many other consumers will likely need to follow. Alternatively, over half of survey participants are rebate-essential. Both audiences represent genuine additions to the EV market. In the converts case, it is because of something they learned in the car shopping process, where with rebate-essential consumers, the rebate enabled their EV purchase.

Understanding the characteristics of these communities allow us to target our messaging, outreach, and educational efforts towards those where it’s most likely to make a difference and yield change in the vehicle they end up purchasing.

Role of EV charging

The success of EV adoption in California is in somewhat of a chicken-and-egg situation when it comes to vehicle sales and building the infrastructure to support widescale vehicle charging. Without one, you can’t have the other, according to EV Initiatives Senior Manager Tyler Petersen, who spoke at Roadmap 12 about charger incentives available through CALeVIP, the largest state-funded charging initiative in the nation.

To accomplish the state’s goal to install sufficient charging infrastructure to support up to 1.5 million plug-in EVs by 2025, it will require a large network of public charging stations at convenient locations, along the highways and at common destinations, Petersen said. CALeVIP uses a standardized platform and local partnerships to create targeted regional EV infrastructure incentive projects across the state. When designing projects, CALeVIP takes a local approach, working with community partners to develop regional incentive projects that leverage local and state funding to meet regional charging needs. CALeVIP also offers increased rebates in disadvantaged communities as these neighborhoods are often more heavily impacted by traffic and poor air quality.

From his experiences on other regional incentive projects, Petersen has learned that engaging and coordinating with local stakeholders and reporting on local program progress yields greater community involvement and consumer awareness.

Moving forward

CSE’s expert knowledge about electric vehicle sales and adoption data, social justice issues and access to public charging added unique perspectives to Forth Roadmap 12 and plays a crucial role in shaping the U.S. EV market.

Sara Tajik

Sara provides marketing support to CSE’s transportation programs.

Read more by Sara Tajik