Lately, more people have been defining electric cars as THE vehicles for women. Because EVs they have become a fashion trend? No, not really. Because women have become more conscious about the future. And cars take up large space in it.
Women vs Men on the EV battlefield
Experts from the University of Sussex and Aarhus University in Denmark conducted a study on the perceptions of electric vehicles and the way they differ based on gender, age, occupation, and education. The study found that people’s choice of vehicle is still largely affected by their gender.
Men, traditionally, give more importance to speed and acceleration, as well as design, when choosing a car. As per the study results, men, 30-45 years old, who have higher levels of education and work in the not-for-profit sector or academia, are currently more than twice as likely to own electric cars as women.
The reason for their choice is exactly the higher acceleration of particular EV models. Boys and their toys. And before you say that this only confirms stereotypical beliefs, let’s see what it means for the market of electric vehicles.
Since men compare vehicles in terms of acceleration and design, EVs compete with all other cars. And while the early years of EVs were male-dominated, today this is not so much the case. Women hold more potential as the perfect EV target consumer.
Why? Because women don’t care only about safety and ease of operation, as one might expect. In fact, highly educated women put more importance on factors that affect running costs and environmental impact. This momentarily makes EVs a great fit for their preferences.
Should we even be surprised by this? After all, women have been in it from the start…
The first women with EVs
EVs have been associated with women ever since the beginning of the 20th century when the electric vehicle became a means to freedom for women. To men, the EVs were limiting. They preferred heavier and long-lasting vehicles. But they found them perfect for their wives and daughters.
Virginia Scharff, a historian at the University New Mexico says “It’s an understanding of a vehicle from the point of view from someone who can accept restrictions on their mobility (…) The distinguishing characteristic of femininity is staying in your place.”
Even then EVs were marketed mainly to women. They were introduced as “sitting rooms on wheels” where one could sit quietly and enjoy the ride. Even dealerships were organized as tea rooms for women to learn about the new vehicles.
At that time manufacturers designed the EVs in a way that allowed driving from the front and from the back seat. Some women hired chauffeurs, while the more independent spirits immediately jumped behind the wheel.
Surprisingly, even the first gasoline carmakers bought electric vehicles for their wives. Clara Ford, Henry Ford’s wife, received a Detroit Electric in 1908. Soon afterward, Mr.Ford introduced his Model T, the car that brought travel opportunities to middle-class America.
The Beginning of EVs
Some might think electric vehicles are the innovation of the 21st century. The reality is that they have existed ever since the early 19th century. History shows that Americans have been building fleets of EVs to replace horse-drawn carriages in big cities. At the turn of the 20th century, the Electric Vehicle Company was the largest carmaker in the United States. It was also the biggest owner of cars in the country.
In 1897, New York enjoyed its first electric cab, and the following year Ferdinand Porsche built one of the world’s first hybrid electric vehicles, the P1. Back then there wasn’t a single technology that dominated the market. An 1899 US Census shows that total automobile production that year included 1,575 electric vehicles, 1,681 steam-powered, and 936 burning gasoline. People selected a vehicle based on the tasks they needed to do.
At the start of the 20th century, EVs were seen as the perfect urban automobiles: moderately paced, clean, and powered to a 30-mile range on a single charge. These characteristics are exactly what made EVs attractive for men buying them for their wives or daughters. By 1915, the number of EVs sold had reached about 37,000 vehicles, a third of them were commercial trucks.
What about today?
Nowadays, people keep saying that EVs remain only 1% of car sales in the USA. But is this true? It probably was a few years ago. According to the tracking website Inside EVs, the total number of vehicles sold in 2018 was 361,307, which is an increase of 81% from the previous year.
The main driver for this growth was Tesla. According to the same report, Tesla’s Model 3 sold 139,782 vehicles that year. In fact, it was the 11th best selling car in the USA in 2018. In 2019, it is already taking Europe, and particularly the Netherlands, by storm.
The rest of 2019 is not going to be all about Tesla, though. There are already a few new mass-market EVs available with over 200 miles of electric range. They even come with female-targeted names. Like Renault’s Zoe. At the same time, brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, and Audi are launching their own high-performance electric cars and putting real pressure on Tesla for the first time.
And how about tomorrow? Tomorrow lies behind a big question mark:
Is the EV future really female?
It turns out women’s current driving behavior is quite suitable for electric vehicles. Most importantly – on average, women drive fewer kilometers per day than men. EVs smaller range is suitable for city trips and running errands.
But how about the moment of really buying a car? Female consumers are responsible for 62% of new vehicle purchases and service done at dealerships in the United States. Thus, they are a huge buying power in the industry already. Moreover, women make up almost half of the U.S. labor force. There are over 1.4 million more women than men who have a drivers’ license. Huge potential. But can electric vehicles make use of that potential?
Money, money, money
Since women are more aware of costs and don’t like car shopping so much, they expect to pay less for their next car. Could EVs really match the price expectations women have? EVs might cost more than their gasoline or diesel counterparts today, but that gap is narrowing. The latest research by analysts at Deloitte UK suggests that price parity with internal combustion cars is likely by 2021.
Another thing to keep in mind is that women may choose EVs and sign the deal, but who is the car for? Automakers cannot always know who the driver is once the car leaves the dealership. Constant research is necessary to see who the real consumer is.
The Family-car Monster
Women care for the family and they evaluate most big purchases with family interests in mind. But as of today, EVs are not the typical family car. Currently, electric vehicles have an image problem – they are not the typical big car that screams status and welfare. We have no doubts that the future of your children is more important than how everyone around sees your family. Yet, we have doubts about the marketing strategy of EV manufacturers.
The conventional car brands have built up an image of stability and security over hundreds of years. Now can the EVs replace this territory in the female mind so quickly? While they may not seem like a great family car just yet, EVs certainly make a great second car. A personal vehicle for the busy city woman.
The Biggest Enemy
Whether they aim at men or women, electric vehicles will have one main challenge: to conquer the habit. EVs require a behavioral adjustment to adapt to the different restrictions of an electric vehicle such as its range and availability of charging stations. And that is a completely new routine one needs to fit in their daily routine. Well, we all know women more adaptive.
The Way to Go
The only way to get the maximum from electric vehicles is to pay attention to male and female needs separately. Market growth can be increased by targeting the exact specifics and interest differences of each gender. If 85% of car buying decisions are influenced by women, just give them what they want!
For example, we know that women have less experience and knowledge about EVs. In studies, they are more likely to answer “I don’t know” to questions about this type of vehicles. They are more likely to need additional information and ask for it. Thus, marketers need to make this information easily accessible. Correction. They need to offer it to women before they have realized they want to know it.
Automakers need to create more direct links between the things that concern women and the features of their electric vehicles. Simply driving a smooth and quiet electric vehicle is not enough. Women want to know they are driving a vehicle that does not harm the environment.
The EV is their instrument to protect the present and to build a better future. And aren’t these the exact things that women want from a man as well? A man who keeps them safe today and makes them feel good about their future together. Well, here he comes with his EV. And step by step, you have walked the way to turning EVs into perfect family cars…