February ’24 Electrified Transportation Market Pulse

Where are the Woman EV Drivers?

Electric vehicles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were originally marketed towards women[1]. When the modern iterations of the electric vehicle began mass-production in the 1990s and 2000s, “women were among those who were first in line to drive first-generation EVs like the EV1, Ford TH!NK, and Toyota RAV4 EV.”[2] Somewhere in the past few decades though, we lost the momentum of women buying electric vehicles. According to the 2023 EV Sentiment Survey conducted by Edmunds, the industry average for EV female buyer representation is less than 33%.[3] Comparing this to the fact that women are responsible for 41.2% of new, personal vehicle registrations, and are influencing over 80% of all vehicle purchases, it becomes clear that the electric vehicle market is not taking into account factors that disproportionately affect women.[4]

In addition, there are several studies on the “eco gender gap” that demonstrate the higher levels of concern that women show for the environment, which are in direct contradiction to their purchases of electric vehicles.[5] The chief diversity officer (CDO) of S&P Global Mobility, Marc Bland, said, “That EVs aren’t being purchased by women is leading to more questions than answers. Women shoppers have concerns about range anxiety and safety. These brands need to do a lot more educating.”[6] In a discussion of range anxiety and safety, charging station locations would appear to be at the center. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, site hosts for EV charging stations are primarily represented by tourist destinations, businesses and institutions, transportation facilities, and community sites.

Addressing Consumer Concerns

Breaking range anxiety into two separate concerns: there is the generally assumed definition of range anxiety — not having enough battery to complete a long trip — and the concern of running out of charge, or not having time to charge, while trip-chaining — “a travel pattern of several small interconnected trips”.[7] We will discuss the former because women’s travel habits are often more complicated than a home to work to home commute. Women are responsible for over three-quarters of unpaid care in the world, and this contributes to different needs. A typical household-sustaining trip-chain for a working woman with a child would be home to school to workplace to shopping to school to home to children’s activities to elder care to home to evening activity/dinner then back home.[8]

Ideally, the battery of an electric vehicle would be able to be charged at home and overnight, providing the charge necessary to complete the necessary travel, but this may be impossible for many drivers due to housing options, energy security, and other socioeconomic factors. The most common public charger is a Level 2 charger, which can fully charge a BEV from empty in 4-10 hours, and a PHEV from empty in 1-2 hours.[9] If EVs require charging throughout the day, it could be difficult to fully recharge the vehicle in between sections of the chain either due to time constraints, lack of availability, or safety. Prioritizing charging locations at schools, grocery stores and pharmacies, medical centers, and workplaces would allow more women to utilize public chargers for their benefit.

Safety at the Charging Station

Regarding safety, a UX designer at FLO (the operator of one of largest North American EV charging networks), Gemma Trigueros, discussed one of her first research projects in relation to public charging. She said, “My team and I quickly realized that women were particularly focused on pain points related to safety. When it comes to electric vehicle charging stations, many experts talk a lot about performance, uptime, and speed. But charging site safety? Not so much.”[10] All the women that Trigueros spoke to avoided using a charging station after dark, primarily to avoid being in a dangerous situation.

While some of the most common places for EV chargers are convenient for site hosts, they are also some of the most common locations for violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and property crime). Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ranks locations for violent crimes, putting highways, alleys, streets and sidewalks at number two, parking garages and parking lots at number three, convenience stores at number four, and gas stations at number seven.[11] According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gas stations were the location of over 63,000 violent crimes in 2018, and they rank at number seven. To put that into perspective, that is almost the same amount of violent crimes in hotel rooms, banks, and public transport stations combined.[12] Gas stations are often: well lit, populated by at least one other person, and using security cameras. These criteria are usually unmet by public charging stations, with the increased time to charge adding to an already vulnerable scenario. When factoring in that women are still the primary chauffeurs for children’s activities, it stands to reason that vulnerability and fear are increased if there are children in the vehicle while charging.

ChargeSafe, an organization dedicated to inspecting and rating all public charging locations in the UK, was founded by James Coyle and Kate Tyrrell. It was based on charging experiences that Tyrrell had while traveling for work in the UK where she felt like a “sitting duck”.[13] ChargeSafe has designed a rating system with over 60 points of inspection in order to provide insight for both drivers and network operators. Among the parameters addressed are, “lighting, security cameras, visibility to passing traffic and general busy-ness of the area, payment ease, customer service, operations and maintenance, and number of units at a location.”[14]

Learnings and Next Steps

While there is extensive data and research in the electric vehicle arena, in preparing this Market Insight, it became apparent that the studies pertaining to women’s transport needs lacked the depth necessary to understand the gap in adoption. Addressing range anxiety and safety should be the primary focus of EV and EVSE companies moving forward, and will likely open up new avenues of research. If near 100% adoption of EVs is the goal, then having the demographic that makes over 80% of the car-buying decisions should be the priority.

[1] http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Gender/Scharff/G_casestudy1.htm

[2] https://pluginamerica.org/from-early-activism-to-now-women-have-shaped-the-ev-movement/

[3] https://www.edmunds.com/car-news/whats-driving-the-gender-gap-in-evs.html

[4] https://www.spglobal.com/mobility/en/research-analysis/women-not-buying-electric-vehicles.html

[5] https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/623b488326a3f99ef2ed6943/623cbce7f040821681319175_Sara%20Luber_Final%20Research.pdf

[6] https://www.spglobal.com/mobility/en/research-analysis/women-not-buying-electric-vehicles.html

[7] Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez, pg. 30

[8] https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~agranbery/2018/12/05/trip-chaining-and-the-mobility-of-care-taking/

[9] https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_infrastructure.html

[10] https://www.flo.com/public-ev-charging-are-womens-voices-being-included/

[11] https://www.fbi.gov/news/press-releases/fbi-releases-2020-crime-statistics

[12] https://thestoddardfirm.com/gas-stations-must-do-more-to-protect-customers/

[13] https://cleantechnica.com/2022/02/02/ev-charging-operators-need-to-take-womens-safety-seriously/

[14] https://electricvehiclelove.com/2022/09/25/safety-and-security-at-charging-stations-are-a-major-concern-for-women/