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Research Recap, May 23: Renewable Energy Estimates, The “Map Effect,” Social Influences on Consumer Behavior

Social influences impact decisions to buy electric vehicles, study finds. Photo by Kevin Krejci.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Renewable Energy Estimates

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that by 2050, nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy could be provided by renewable energy sources. The report examined 164 peer-reviewed energy scenarios to reach its conclusions, which also reveal that the majority of renewable energy growth will come from developing countries.

The “Map Effect”

Zhan Guo, an NYU Professor found that public transit riders’ perceptions about their riding experiences are determined more heavily by maps than by their actual experiences. In exploring the relationship between schematic transit maps and ridership in the London Underground, Guo uncovered that riders defer to transit map features more than their own travel experiences when drawing conclusions on their transit experiences. For example, different map codification systems can make a transfer look easier or more cumbersome, and thus affect how riders perceive their actual transfer.

Electric Vehicle Preferences

Accenture recently completed a study on consumer preferences regarding fully-electric and hybrid-electric plug-in electric vehicles (PEV’s). Using data from 7,000 respondents and 13 countries, the study found the following notable points:

  • 60 percent of consumers would consider buying a PEV for their next car purchase
  • 71 percent would prefer a plug-in-hybrid to a pure battery-electric vehicle
  • 67 percent are not willing to let charge station operators limit when they can charge their PEV
  • 62 percent would reject battery swapping, preferring to plug in their car to recharge the battery
  • 96 percent of Chinese respondents would consider buying a PEV within the next three years, making Chinese respondents the most enthusiastic demographic

Driving Rates and Obesity

Vehicle use and obesity have a positive, 99 percent, correlation in the United States, according to a new study by Sheldon H. Jacobson, a Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The article, titled “A Note on the Relationship Between Obesity And Driving,” is included in the most recent edition of Transport Policy.

Public-Private Research Partnership

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a new research program, DRIVE, to accelerate the development and integration of clean and energy efficient technologies in cars and light trucks. DRIVE partners the U.S. Department of Energy with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Tesla Motors.

Biofuel Advancements

Researchers at SK Innovation, South Korea’s largest oil refinery, conducted a comprehensive performance study on biobutanol-blended gasoline in personal cars and found that it surpassed bioethanol in a number of categories, including power and emissions. The report states, “This study shows that biobutanol is one of the best alternative bioalcohol fuels for use in the near future.”

Social Influences on Consumer Behavior

Social influences are hugely impactful for both perceptions and behaviors regarding plug-in hybrid vehicles, according to new research from Jonn AXSEN of the University of California at Davis. Axsen’s research demonstrated that car buyers typically consult family and friends to determine the various benefits of PHEV’s, and that consumers often generate their environmental values and identities from social discussions. The research holds implications for integrating social dimensions into policy measures, which, historically, have not accounted for such influences.

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