Electric Mobility- Geodemographic Analysis of Electric Vehicle Adopters

Project Description

To leverage information from the consumer stated preference survey and other relevant data sources to develop a national EV adoption segmentation system for small census areas. The outcome will be an applied software and data tool that will allow partners and other external parties to carry out basic forms of analysis on the consumer EV market.

Geodemographics has to do with the comprehensive characterization of populations over space and is typically associated with segments into which small census or postal areas are assigned. The private sector has developed small area segmentation systems across Canada for the characterization of a wide range of purchasing behaviours. These are general purpose segmentation systems that go by names such as PRIZM and PSYTE. In these systems, each small census area (e.g. a dissemination area) or a postal code is assigned one of perhaps 50-60 or more cluster codes depending on what group is most representative of the households in that area. The dominant variables which define the clusters or groups are ones such as age, income, household composition and position on the urban/rural hierarchy among a range of other factors. Having defined a segment, each one is ultimately associated with a name and a description so that the end-user of a segmentation system can conceive a "picture" of the households that define the segment.

The outputs of this module have been viewed as an excellent means to share insights about how the adoption of electric vehicles is likely to unfold in spatial terms across Canada. Geodemographic insights that emerge from locational context variables in the consumer survey will illustrate, for example, whether suburbanites or central city residents will respond more quickly. There will be insights about whether occupants of single detached dwellings with space for home charging infrastructure might be faster to adapt and whether occupants of multi-storey apartment dwellers might be slower to adopt. The segmentation system that will emerge from the analysis will be made available to partners at the small census area level (dissemination areas) and will be constructed using data from the approximately 20,000 survey respondents. Each census dissemination area will be classified into one of several consumer segments where each segment will have a unique character as regards adoption of electric vehicles.

For the purposes of this module, we will focus on the potential purchasing behavior as it relates to EVs. A custom segmentation system geared toward EVs could be used to easily differentiate, for example, the profiles of the Ford Focus Electric from the Nissan Leaf, or it could be used to differentiate the profiles of some EV from a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

Dr. Chris Higgins, a post-doctoral fellow at the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics will play a leading role in the development of the geodemographic deliverables from this module. While the information that will be shared with partners will be at the dissemination area level, research will be conducted as low as the micro-level. The main methodological challenge will be the “mapping” of the results from the 20,000 respondents in an appropriate manner so as to be representative of the attitudes of the population of Canadian households over space. We would expect that coping with this methodological challenge will lead to a methodically-oriented paper suitable for peer reviewed publication. The main data deliverables of the module will be of interest to the partners and resulting insights will be of interest for a wide audience. To some extent, this module will bring the results of the consumer survey “to life” in terms of communicating with the outside world.

Get Clarity Inc. has contributed small area data on the types of vehicles for which people are obtaining insurance quotes. This small area information may provide further guidance in generating the most realistic pattern of adoption behaviour. This would be viewed as a secondary source relative to the main survey results.

One of the important uses of the geodemographic module and its focus on small-area geographies is the possible impact of clusters of EV car owners on utilities as localized utility infrastructure potentially gets overwhelmed from the demand for charging. To this end, Amal Elhiny has been focussing on understanding the power generation and distribution industry across Canada and the factors that will affect the responsiveness of the industry to deal with a potentially serious problem. Certainly, this analysis is not geodemographics per se but the outputs of this module are critical to understanding the geographic scope of the potential issue.

This module will be an important focus of the project towards the end of 2015 and into 2016.