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1 Wissenschaftliche Arbeit zur Erlangung des Grades Diplom-Sozialwissenschaftler der Universität Stuttgart - Fach Soziologie - Why hybrid cars succeed where other green cars fail The importance of social, cultural and political aspects in technical regime change towards a sustainable transport system in the USA Erstgutachter: Prof. Dr. Ortwin Renn Institut für Sozialwissenschaften Abt. für Umwelt- und Techniksoziologie Universität Stuttgart Zweitgutachter: Dr. Daniel Compagnon Institut d Etudes Politiques Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV vorgelegt von: Miriam Fischlein Pfirsichweg Aschaffenburg Tel.: Deutsch-franz. Studiengang Sozialwissenschaften Matrikelnummer: Abgabedatum:

2 Abstract Can hybrid electric cars make a difference with regard to the sustainability of the US transport system? Since their introduction in 2001 and despite a purchase premium, demand for these ecological cars has grown to unexpected levels. The combination of electric and combustion motor renders them more energy efficient and less polluting than their conventional counterparts. They could thus contribute to make the American transport system more sustainable. It is currently faced with huge challenges, such as the world s highest fuel consumption and greenhouse gas production, as well as extreme local air pollution. Consequently, the wider diffusion of hybrid cars is desirable. They seem to be on their way to attain mass diffusion. But hybrids success, if positive, is also surprising: Historically, no ecological vehicle has ever been able to compete with conventional cars. And economically, hybrids lacking price competitiveness makes their purchase irrational. Nevertheless, demand is sustained. How then can the unexpected success of hybrid vehicles be explained? The results from a quantitative study of hybrid owners demonstrate that the all-importance of price and other economic aspects has to be refuted. Instead, it is necessary to include social, cultural and political factors in order to fully explain hybrids appeal. Early adopters attitudes towards hybrid vehicles can inform us about adequate policies to attain wider diffusion of these ecological cars. Measures in favor of hybrids have to be attuned to social practices, cultural visions and the political climate, and not only to economic considerations.

3 Contents List of figures List of tables Notes Acknowledgements vi viii ix xiii 1 Introduction 1 2 Automobile society and sustainability Passenger transport as a result of growing demand for individual mobility Global effects of motorized travel on sustainability Worldwide oil supply and demand Motorized transport s global environmental impacts The sustainability of the transport system in the United States America s thirst for oil and the consequences on energy security The environmental and health impacts of automobile traffic in the United States The case for hybrid technology An ecological technical invention ii

4 3.1.1 How hybrid cars work: a new drive-train system Hybrids energy and environmental performance The economics of hybrid cars The market for HEVs - current situation and projections Overcoming the market entrance barrier Accounting for hybrids success: sociological contributions Literature review Theoretical background: Acknowledging technology s and consumption s social character Pivotal theoretical concepts: Socio-technical regime and leitbild approaches Propositions for an appended concept of the socio-technical regime Theoretical construct Hypotheses Supply side: The institutional and regulatory dimension of hybrids diffusion The regulatory environment Energy policy Environmental policy Safety policy Manufacturers capabilities Demand side: Empirical study on the user acceptance of hybrid electric vehicles Design of the study Selection and composition of respondents The key variables Statistical analysis iii

5 6.2.1 Testing the hypotheses An exploratory model of political, social and cultural factors influence on hybrid technology diffusion Additional results Policy implications A short assessment of available policy options and their efficiency Forcing hybrids commercialization The case for Pigouvian taxes The case for a reform of existing standards and subsidies Exploiting hybrids full potential The case for electronic fuel efficiency displays in all vehicles The case for a plug-in option The case for soft measures Conclusion Résumé: Les voitures hybrides - succès sans précédent et effets sur le système de transport américain Les voitures hybrides offrent une solution technologique face à la crise du système de transport américain La société automobile et son impact sur la consommation d énergie et sur l environnement Une technologie écologique au succès surprenant: les voitures hybrides Toutefois, leur impact réel dépendra de leur acceptation par l opinion publique et de l adéquation des mesures politiques proposées L état de l acceptation des voitures vertes par les producteurs et les consommateurs iv

6 9.2.2 Les implications pour les politiques publiques Appendix 154 Bibliography 165 v

7 List of Figures 2.1 Modal share of passenger travel in selected countries Depletion of oil and gas Worldwide CO 2 emissions, Real and nominal gas prices in the US, HEV drive-train configurations Distribution of hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners Estimated change of fuel prices Initial model of hybrid-ownership Revised model of hybrid-ownership What could increase hybrid sales in the US? Support for policy measures vi

8 List of Tables 2.1 GDP and cars per capita in selected countries, 1970 and Estimated annual losses (gains) through climate change Vehicle use, fuel price and fuel intensity in selected countries US greenhouse gas emissions, GDP and greenhouse gas intensity, Potential for the reduction of CO 2 emissions through regenerative braking Currently available hybrid electric vehicles and planned introductions Projection of hybrid-electric light duty vehicle sales, Alternative vehicle sales in the US, The costs of hybrids and comparable vehicles Hybrid Motor Vehicle Credit: Maximum deduction amounts by vehicle weight CAFE standards, Federal emission standards for light duty vehicles Corporate average fuel economy by manufacturer, Distribution of HEV models owned by respondents Interest in hybrid technology among survey respondents List of attitudinal measures employed in the study vii

9 6.4 Influence of environmental issues salience on support for policy measures Influence of energy issues salience on support for policy measures Influence of perceived problem solving capacity on interest in hybrid vehicle technology Influence of perceived social gratification on interest in hybrid vehicle technology Influence of acceptance by relevant social groups on interest in hybrid vehicle technology Variance in hybrid-owners and non-owners perception of acceptance by relevant social groups Expected vehicle attributes and their impact on interest in hybrid technology Aspects increasing hybrid sales in the US Actual distance driven and comparison to the average driver Vehicle class - HEVs and the vehicles traded in for them viii

10 Notes Abbreviations α ANOVA CAA CAFE CH 4 CO CO 2 cpg df DOE EIA EPA EU F fig. ft γ ga Kronbach s alpha analysis of variance Clean Air Act Corporate Average Fuel Economy methane carbon monoxide carbon dioxide cent per gallon (US) degrees of freedom Department of Energy Energy Information Administration Environmental Protection Agency European Union F-ratio (between groups means square divided by withingroups mean square) figure foot (US) gamma (correlation measure) gallon (US) ix

11 GDP GJ GM GVW HOV HEV ICE IEA lb LDT LDV LEV mb mi mpg mph N N/A NHTSA NMVOCs NO x OECD OPEC PGU R SCOT SIP SO x SULEV gross domestic product gigajoule General Motors gross vehicle weight High Occupancy Vehicle hybrid electric vehicle internal combustion engine International Energy Agency pound (US) Light Duty Truck Light Duty Vehicle Low Emission Vehicle million barrel mile miles per gallon (US) miles per hour (US) number of cases not applicable National Highway Traffic Safety Administration non-methane volatile organic compounds nitrous oxides Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Organization for the Petroleum Exporting Countries power generating unit Pearson s R Social Construction of Technology State Implementation Plan sulphur oxides Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle x

12 SUV tab. ULEV US VOC x/cap sport utility vehicle table Ultra Low Emission Vehicle United States volatile organic compounds x per capita Currencies Within this thesis, the currencies used are the US Dollar and, in some cases, the European Euro. Where the symbol $ is used, it always refers to the US currency. Fuel taxes are given in US cent per gallon (cpg). Measures and conversion tables The measures used in the text follow the American system. Liquid measures are given in gallons, weights in pounds. Linear measures are given in miles and feet, and speed in miles per hour. Fuel consumption is measured in liter per 100 kilometers in Europe and inversely the United States, in miles per gallon. Emissions are measured in gram per mile in the US and in gram per kilometer in Europe. In both cases, the American measures are used. The conversion chart can be found below: General measures 1 ga = l 1 mi = km 1 lb = g 60 mph = 96.6 km/h xi

13 Fuel consumption measures 20 mpg = l/100 km 30 mpg = 7.84 l/100 km 50 mpg = l/100 km 5 l/100 km = mpg 10 l/100 km = mpg xii

14 Acknowledgements I would like to thank all the interviewees for their participation in the online survey. Their help is very much appreciated. For fruitful discussions and valuable suggestions, I want to thank my supervisor Professor Alfred Marcus at the Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis. Great support was also provided by several other faculty members and students at the University of Minnesota - thank you, Professor Tim Smith, Mary Maloney and Adam Fremeth. I am grateful to my supervisors in Stuttgart and Bordeaux, Professor Ortwin Renn and Professor Daniel Compagnon, for their willingness to accept a tri-national thesis and for their support throughout the year. Without being granted a fellowship from the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes), I would not have been able to undertake an overseas research project. I am very grateful for this opportunity. My special thanks go to my family for their loving support and to Nikolas for making me undertake yet another adventure. xiii

15 Chapter 1 Introduction For more than one hundred years, mankind has been relying on the hydrocarbon economy and vehicles propelled by combustion engines to meet the growing demand for individual mobility. This configuration poses serious problems: Energy security, air pollution and climate change are issues that are becoming more and more pressing. Finite oil resources and the effects of automobile emissions have prompted governments and automobile manufacturers to search for alternative technologies. To date, the attempt to find a technical solution for a more sustainable transport system has been in vain. Even though progress has been made towards cleaner and more fuel efficient cars through incremental innovation, the efficiency gains have been eaten up by the greater weight and performance of today s cars and the sheer number of miles driven, which is steadily increasing. Alternative drive-trains such as the electric vehicle have not been met with success. Now, a new technology is raising hopes for a more sustainable transport system. Hybrid-electric drive-trains were first introduced in the United States in 2000 and demand has since gained momentum. They reduce emissions and fuel consumption through the combination of an internal combustion engine with an electric motor and by using regenerative braking and idleoff. If hybrids were to attain a wider diffusion they could truly make a 1

16 difference in terms of emissions and energy consumption. The sales figures from the first few years show a strong upwards trend. The fact that all major manufacturers are introducing hybrid models also points to a bright future for the technology. But hybrids success, if positive, is also surprising: They are so much more expensive than conventional cars that the fuel cost savings cannot make up for the price difference. According to pure cost-utility calculations, it is not rational to buy a hybrid car. Standard economic theory would predict little interest in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Contrary to these expectations, the demand is so high that in some US states, the waiting time for a new hybrid is several months. And then there is the fact that no alternative vehicle technology has ever caught on the way hybrids have on the market. Even extensive subsidies and supportive regulations could not force the mass commercialization of electrical or alternative fuel vehicles. How can the unexpected triumph of hybrid vehicles be explained? There have to be factors besides price that account for hybrids appeal. In this thesis, we turn to social practices, public discourses and cultural visions linked to technical artifacts to explain user acceptance of green technologies. Apparently, hybrids succeed so well in these categories, that their lack of price competitiveness is not of great weight for customers. Finding out whether this is truly the case is the purpose of the hybrid-owner survey described in this thesis. By examining user attitudes, we can determine different dimensions that facilitate or impede technical change. They act as switches between technical options: The better a new technology accommodates the requirements set by various selection environments, the more likely it is to gain wider diffusion. This research advances the sociological concept of selection environments as determinants of the direction of technical change. It emphasizes the importance of social, cultural and political selection aspects and thereby closes gaps in some other approaches of technical regime change. It is of interest to the 2

17 transportation, environmental, and energy policy community. The realization that non-economic factors play a role in the success of green technologies can lead to a better understanding of the preconditions for the transformation of large socio-technical systems towards more sustainability. Having an insight into social dynamics is a prerequisite for informed policy making. Early adopters of hybrid technology can teach us how to make other users - who may be insensitive to energy security and environmental concerns and plagued by more immediate troubles and constraints - take an interest in energy-efficient and clean technologies and use them in a way effectively spinning off energy savings and pollution reduction. The structure of the thesis is as follows: Chapter 2 contains a discussion of recent trends in transport growth and its consequences on the environment and on oil consumption. An account of the functioning of hybrid electric vehicles and their environmental and energy performance follows in Chapter 3. It also comprises an analysis of the present and future market for hybrids. The case is put forward that economic theory cannot fully explain this new technology s success. Chapter 4 investigates how useful sociological theories can be in this regard. A review of the relevant literature in sociology of technology and consumption is followed by the introduction of an appended theoretical model of the socio-technical regime. The focus is on selection environments as explanatory factors for the smoothness or roughness of technical regime change towards more sustainability. In Chapter 5, the main selection effects on the supply side are examined. Regulations and firms institutional capabilities are of special importance if regime change is to succeed. Chapter 6 concentrates on selection effects on the demand side. Data from a quantitative study of hybrid owners is explored and user attitudes are discussed. The thesis concludes with a discussion of policy implications in Chapter 7. A French summary of the complete thesis can be found in Chapter 8. 3

18 Chapter 2 Automobile society and sustainability Modern societies are marked by an unprecedented increase in spatial mobility (Banister et al., 2000), which has adverse effects on the environment and on energy consumption. 2.1 Passenger transport as a result of growing demand for individual mobility Compared to travel patterns in earlier times and compared to those of less developed countries, citizens of industrialized nations cover much farther distances. In a broad definition of the human activity of travel, the European Commission (2005, pg. 3) describes passenger transport as follows: Passenger transport consists of all transport of people rather than of freight. It includes all forms of public and private transport of people by air, land or water, whether scheduled or unscheduled. It includes unmotorised and pedestrian transport. It also includes the transport of baggage which is traveling with a passenger. Pas- 4

19 senger transport may be urban, rural, coastal, local, long distance or cross-border. Passenger transport growth is spurred by three main factors: land-use patterns, socio-economic conditions and transportation system conditions (Polzin et al., 2003). 1 We will concentrate on the first two factors, because they help us make a point about the expected growth of travel. The growing spatial dispersion of individual activity patterns is the most notable driver of travel demand in Western societies. In the course of the 20th century, population density in urban settlements has dwindled. As locations of leisure, work and living became more distant and social networks more widespread, the need for individual mobility grew. The scattered settlement patterns of today s cities lend themselves poorly to public transport, because they lack the population density required to render it efficient. With distances between the sites of daily activities growing, walking or biking is often not an option and mobility needs are saturated to a large extent by individual motor car traffic. According to the European Commission, in 1998, roughly 75 % of passenger miles in the European Union (EU) were traveled by car (European Commission, 2005). In the United States, the share of car travel is even higher: In 2001, 86.3 % of total miles were traveled by car (DOT/NHA, 2004). With the notable exception of Japan, the share of private car transport in overall transport lies over 80 % today in all selected countries shown in Fig These nations are not only highly mobile in terms of distances traveled, but they are truly automobile societies in that a large majority of trips are taken by car. 1 Production also drives transport demand. Industrial manufacturing is ever more decentralized, with firms exploiting economies of scale and scope as well as the division of labor on a global scale. Intrafirm trade in combination with just-in-time production leads to increased freight traffic (Donaghy et al., 2004). Freight transport is an interesting field of study, but we will concentrate on passenger transport. 5

20 Figure 2.1: Modal share of passenger travel in selected countries. Adapted from: OECD/IEA, 2004b Not only is there a shift from other means of transport toward motor vehicles, but the total number of miles traveled has increased, too. While the travel-time budget of an average person per day is approximately one hour, irrespective of cultural differences, geographical specificities, predominant mode of transport or per-capita income (Schafer and Victor, 2000), people in Western societies go further in this time. 2 To the extent that a better infrastructure allows for swifter traffic and the speed of available means of transport increases, the distances traveled grow. While the average North- American covered circa 13,700 miles per year in 1990, the typical African traveled a mere 1,150 miles (idem). 2 African villagers spend about the same time every day travelling as the average inhabitants of Singapore, Western Europe or the United States, but they cover smaller distances. The reason for the worldwide travel time stability remains a mystery to scientists. It has been argued that an hour of travel time per day corresponds to human instincts, or that other activities such as sleeping, eating and working put a time-constraint on travelling (Schafer, 1998), but scientific proof for these assumptions is still lacking. 6

21 Country GDP per capita (1985 $) Cars per capita av. annual % change av. annual % change Canada USA Australia Japan Germany France UK India China a a 16.5 OECD a 1991 Table 2.1: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and cars per capita in selected countries, 1970 and Source: Dargay and Gately, 1999 Per capita income is the other central factor driving mobility demand. The car ownership population ratio is a function of the income level (Tab. 2.1). It serves as an important measure of traffic because it is directly related to per capita travel and fuel use. In Western societies, the transport sector accounts for the biggest part of overall energy use, but percentage growth rates of the car fleet and of transport energy demand are modest. In poor countries, the part of transport in overall energy consumption is smaller. But per capita energy demand shoots up as they start to develop and continues to rise steadily during the process of economic development. If China or India were to attain a living standard comparable to the Western world, the number of cars and of miles traveled would explode. At the current growth rate, the number of cars worldwide will rise from 800 million today to 3.25 billion in 2050 (Koerner, 2005). Looking at these figures, it seems as if the growing demand for mobility is here to stay - along with an unquenchable thirst for oil and millions of tons of toxic emissions. Thus, mobility needs have widespread consequences on energy consumption and the environment. 7

22 2.2 Global effects of motorized travel on sustainability Motorized travel is responsible for unsustainable levels of oil consumption and environmental pollution Worldwide oil supply and demand The transport sector depends almost totally on oil and is the single most important determinant of oil demand. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that between 2000 and 2030, transport energy use in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) will increase by 50 %, in spite of policies intended to curb travel growth (OECD/IEA, 2004a). In addition, the expansion of transport oil consumption is practically the single cause of the overall increase in OECD oil use over this period. This also intensifies energy dependence throughout the OECD (OECD/IEA, 2003): By 2030, oil imports are projected to attain 85 % of total consumption in Europe (up from about 50 % today), 50 % in North America (up from about 35 % today), and 95 % in the Pacific region (up from about 90 % today). The absolute as well as the relative part of transport in oil consumption will grow in the future (Svidén, 1993). Data from the International Energy Agency confirms the expected predominance of transport in oil consumption in industrialized countries (OECD/IEA, 2004b): While the last thirty years have seen a decline in household and industry oil use, transport s consumption has continued to grow. In 1998, transport represented 78 % of oil consumption in IEA member countries, combining private travel s 53 % and freight s 25 % share. Newly developing countries, most notably China and India, are following in the footsteps of the industrialized countries and their immense thirst for oil puts the oil market under even more pressure. While demand for oil is growing globally at a ratio of approximately 1.6 % per year, concerns about the longevity of and the access to the world s oil 8

23 supply are increasingly being voiced. One reason for this is the insecurity about the exact quantity of oil remaining. Colin Campbell (cited in: Vidal, 2005, pg. 1), the renowned geologist and expert for oil-reserves questions, puts it very aptly: Estimating reserves is a scientific business. There is a range of uncertainty but it is not impossible to get a good idea of what a field contains. Reporting, however, is a political act. The accuracy of the numbers reported by companies and governments is at best questionable. But the last couple of years have brought it home that there might be less oil out there than previously expected. In 2004, several oil companies revised their reserve estimates downwards. Shell (2004), for instance, recategorized 20 % of its proven reserves to probable reserves and a number of American companies, among them El Paso with a 41 % downgrade for its North-American oilfields, also came forward with lower numbers for their reserves than previously published (OECD/IEA, 2004a). In addition, during the last two years, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) repeatedly stated that its production capacity was stretched to the limit. In Russia, the government s crackdown on the energy market and the nationalizations of oil-giant Yukos and Gazprom have further fueled concerns about bottlenecks on the oil market and contributed to a bull movement on the oil market. Undeniably, political and economic unrest in oil-producing countries has an impact on prices. It is also important to bear in mind that the geopolitical distribution of reserves puts a risk premium on the oil price. While the US is today s largest oil producer, its petroleum fields are considered to be already past their peak. The world s biggest remaining hydro-carbon reserves lie hidden beneath the desert sands of the politically instable Middle-East. The 2003 Iraq war and its aftermath have a considerable impact on oil prices. And although Iran is thought to harbor the world s 9

24 fourth largest oil reserves, geopolitical tensions make access to these reserves doubtful. The disparity of the location of oil demand and oil supply, the political turmoil in a number of supplier countries and the insecurity about remaining oil reserves have jointly caused an upward trend in crude oil prices since In April 2005, a barrel of oil was traded at prices as high as 60 US $ (Der Spiegel, 2005a). Experts expect prices to remain at the current level or to climb even higher. In April 2005, a study by the investment bank Goldman Sachs (cited in: BBC, 2005) caused quite a stir: It asserts that the current oil prices are just the beginning of a super spike, which could drive prices up to 105 US $ per barrel. Another study predicts crude oil prices around 77 US $ per barrel in the short term and up to 100 US $ by 2010 (Rubin, 2005). While the world will not run out of oil in the next few years, this most valued of energy products will become scarcer - and therefore more expensive - quite soon. Projections vary about how long petroleum will last and how fast depletion will occur. According to the IEA (OECD/IEA, 2004a), the world s oil resources will not peak before But by its own projections, demand is expected to grow by 64 % between 2002 and This would have to be offset by enhanced oil recoveries. However, during the last decade, the world has seen a slowdown in discoveries of new oilfields. The accuracy of the IEA projection has therefore been doubted, for example by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO). ASPO s members - geologists and former employees of oil companies - assert a much faster depletion rate of oil resources and criticize the excessive optimism of the USGS World Oil Assessment (USGS, 2000), on which the IEA s World Energy Outlook is based. Fig. 2.2 depicts the alternative depletion scenario developed by ASPO. In the face of finite resources, growing mobility demand means higher oil prices. As reserves shrink, advanced investments are required to recover the remaining oil. Canada, for example, has extensive amounts of tar sands - but 10

25 Figure 2.2: Association for the Study of Peak Gas and Oil: The general depletion picture - Oil and Gas Source: ASPO,

26 extracting high quality fuel from it is much more expensive than customary oil production and requires a huge amount of energy, which would have to come from other sources. Transportation relying on hydro-carbon resources will be faced with higher prices, and ultimately, with the disappearance of its lifeline - oil. Transport s bad energy consumption record is not the sole concern, however. Automobile traffic also has severe consequences for the environment Motorized transport s global environmental impacts Automobiles emit several substances that adversely affect air quality and contribute to global warming. Today s standard internal combustion engines burn gasoline only incompletely, discharging air pollutants and particles in the process. The global climate change theory rests upon the assumption that anthropogenic emissions lead to global warming by trapping solar heat instead of emitting it back into space. Melting icecaps at the poles would then cause a rising sealevel and the submersion of much of the world s coastal areas. In addition, experts expect changes in weather patterns, with more severe storms, altered rainfall patterns and droughts as possible results. Politically, the existence of global climate change is not undisputed, and there is even more discord when it comes to remedies. Scientifically, there is doubt about the extent but not the existence of anthropogenic climate change. In the last few years, enough evidence has been accumulated to make a case for the correctness of the basic assumptions behind climate change theory. Only this year, two new studies have been published that dispel a large part of what doubts remained. The first one (Saltzman and Young, 2005) links the end of the ordovician period ice-age to high atmospheric concentrations of CO 2 from volcanic eruptions. It presents evidence that situates the ice-age 10 million years earlier than previously assumed. Formerly, the later dating was used as an argument against the link between CO 2 and global 12

27 warming: it would have meant that an ice-age would had lasted even under under high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). The second study (Hansen et al., 2005), undertaken by NASA scientists and published in Science, finds that the Earth s energy balance is in disequilibrium: Earth absorbs 0.85 watt per square meter more energy from the sun than it reflects into space. This supports the global warming argument. In addition, the study points to a delay effect in climate change: Earth s climate system has considerable thermal inertia. This point is of critical importance to policy and decision-makers who seek to mitigate the effects of undesirable anthropogenic climate change. The effect of the inertia is to delay Earth s response to climate forcings [... ]. This delay provides an opportunity to reduce the magnitude of anthropogenic climate change before it is fully realized, if appropriate action is taken. On the other hand, if we wait for more overwhelming empirical evidence of climate change, the inertia implies that still greater climate change will be in store, which may be difficult or impossible to avoid. (Hansen et al., 2005, pg. 1) The earth s climate-inertia renders the need for action all the more acute and inaction all the more damaging. Greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, but their real effects will only be felt much later. Even if CO 2 emissions were stabilized, the CO 2 concentration would still continue to rise (IPCC, 2001). Several efforts have already been made on the international level to reign in greenhouse gas emissions, the most well known being the Kyoto Protocol. 3 The Kyoto reduction measures, combined with voluntary steps taken by the industry, have succeeded in slowing the 3 The Kyoto Protocol seeks to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. The signing parties commit to reduce their CO 2 production by a certain ratio, with different ratios for developing and industrial countries. Although it was adopted already in 1999, it only came into effect this year, after taking the hurdle of being ratified by enough countries to account for more than 55 % of the world s greenhouse gas emissions. It has 13

28 Figure 2.3: Worldwide CO 2 emissions, Source: UNEP, 2005a increase rate of global CO 2 emissions. It is a first step, but there is still room for improvement. Moreover, equity concerns arise from the fact that emission rates are not equally spread across the world (Fig. 2.3): Industrial societies pollute more both in absolute and in per capita terms. This is especially striking in the case of North America, whose per capita pollution rate is almost 20 times that of Africa and still more than twice as high as in Europe and Asia-Pacific. After power generation, transport captures the largest share in carbon dioxide emissions - between 20 % in developing countries and up to 30 % in industrialized countries. And its share is growing due to continuing increases in vehicle numbers and miles traveled (Ortmeyer and Pillay, 2001). While an in-built equity mechanism, in that it applies differential reduction levels according to the development level of a country. 14

29 EU USA Ex-USSR China World World Coastal protection measures Loss of coastal land Loss of coastal wetlands a Other ecosystems Agriculture Forestry Energy industry (0.7) Water management Mortality Air pollution Emigration Tropical cyclones Total a including losses to fishing Table 2.2: Estimated annual losses (gains) in the event that atmospheric C0 2 concentrations reach twice pre-industrial levels (Billion US $). Source: Munich Re, 2001 CO2 emissions in the industry and residential sectors are sinking globally, pollution from transportation is showing an upwards trend. Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) is the single most important pollutant emitted by cars. Other main greenhouse gases given off by mobile emitters are methane (CH 4 ) and nitrous oxides (NO x ). Also contained in fuel are indirect greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur oxides (SO x ) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC). These substances all contribute to high-level, stratospheric changes causing global warming. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are projected to reach twice their preindustrial level by 2050 and to give rise to enormous macroeconomic costs to remedy the effects of climate change. Tab. 2.2 shows an estimate of annual costs in selected countries. It could cost the world as much as 300 billion US $ per year to fight climate change impacts. Besides contributing to global warming, car exhaust gases are one of the 15

30 premier sources of local air pollution. They affect the health of the population, not to mention the well-being of the flora and fauna. NO x, CO and volatile organic compounds (VOC, also-called hydrocarbons) have been proven to have severe health impacts. CO harms the respiratory tract and the coronary arteries. VOC and NO x cause smog, and in turn, respiratory illnesses (Porter, 1999). Recently, another component of car exhaust fumes, particulate matter, has made headlines: A new study by the European Union shows that these minuscule particles are responsible for the death of up to 310,000 EU citizens every year (SZ, 2005). The World Health Organization first drew attention to the fact that the dust suspended in the atmosphere causes cardio-pulmonary diseases and lung cancer. It included recommendations on the restriction of particulate matter in its air quality guidelines (see for example WHO (2000)). Since then, a large body of scientific evidence has been accumulated that documents the human death toll caused by particulate matter. The price humanity pays for mobility is high: today, transport already claims lifes - not only directly in accidents, but also indirectly through its noxious emissions. Tomorrow, the price to pay might become even higher due to climate-related macroeconomic costs and loss of human life. 2.3 The sustainability of the transport system in the United States Automobile traffic plays a prominent role in local air pollution and in global warming. The automobile society par excellence, the United States, feels the effects of motorized traffic perhaps more dearly than anybody else. Both energy dependence and pollution give rise to concerns. 16

31 2.3.1 America s thirst for oil and the consequences on energy security In the United States, the issue of energy security has become more acute in the past years. With a share of 40.7 % of total energy consumption in 1999, transport is the main energy consumer in the US; between 1990 and 2001, its consumption rose by 19.7 % (OECD/IEA, 2002b). The US are already the world s largest oil importer and under the current policy mix, the imports will continue to grow: Oil demand is projected to rise 1 % per year, from 20.2 million barrel (mb) per day in 2000 to 27.3 mb per day in 2030 (OECD/IEA, 2002a), even as the mature domestic production declines by approximately 0.2 % per year. A scissor effect is at work: sinking indigenous production is faced with growing demand. This will result in augmented energy dependence of the United States if no new measures are taken to either reign in demand or to increase domestic supply. Without action, oil imports will rise to 63 % of total oil consumption by 2020 (OECD/IEA, 2002b). The United States do not stand alone with this problem: The OECD is projected to become more dependent on energy imports from non-members, with the OPEC countries capturing the lion s share of the demand increase (OECD/IEA, 2004a). Its oil exports to the OECD are expected to rise by 80 % between 2002 and For the United States, the need for foreign oil is a major security concern, considering that it makes the world s most powerful nation dependent on countries that are at best authoritarian, at worst dictatorial regimes. Interestingly, at the same time that the energy supply situation of the US worsens, Americans continue to enjoy very low gasoline prices compared to the rest of the developed world. In 1998, Americans paid 1.24 dollars per gallon ($/ga), compared to 3.74 $/ga in France, 3.82 $/ga in the United Kingdom and 2.88 $/ga in Japan (Ortmeyer and Pillay, 2001). Of course, the oil market is international and the global price of oil has a direct impact on the cost of gasoline. But what motorists ultimately pay at the pump depends on national and local taxes. And this is where the US differs radically from 17

32 Weighted real fuel price, including taxes Countries Vehicledistance per capita x1000 Fleet average vehicle fuel intensity Car fuel use per capita US $/ga US $/l mi km mi/ga l/100 km GJ/cap USA Canada Australia Japan EU a a Minima and maxima are from Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. Table 2.3: A comparison of vehicle use, fuel price and fuel intensity in selected countries, Source: Himanen et al., 2004 other industrialized countries: its taxes on gasoline are very moderate and its fuel prices are what must be the worlds lowest in relation to per capita income. The tax proportion is only 36 % in the US, compared to 80 % in France, 76 % in the United Kingdom and 60 % in Japan (idem). Low fuel prices encourage consumption and so it is not surprising that Americans travel more per capita than all other OECD citizens. What is more, the fuel intensity of the US car fleet is higher than in any other industrialized country (for selected countries, see Tab. 2.3, 18). In short, there is tremendous unused potential for efficiency gains in the American transport sector. Even though fuel is cheap in international comparison, the rising price on the world market is felt in the US, too. Oil prices at the pump have been mounting. But in real terms, what Americans pay at the pump today is still way below what they used to pay twenty years ago, after the oil shocks of the 70s. While Fig. 2.4 shows an upward trend in real and nominal gasoline prices since 2002, it also proves that fuel is nowhere near as expensive today as it used to be in the early eighties. Still, the recent increases have captured consumers attention, because the percentage change is actually quite elevated. During the summer of 2005, it was accentuated by the destruction of 18

33 Figure 2.4: Real and nominal average annual gas prices in the US, Source: DOE/EIA, 2005a refineries in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Stan. In some areas, regular unleaded cost three or more dollars per gallon. Even by the Department of Energy s (DOE) own testimony (DOE/EIA, 2004a,b), the higher prices are here to stay: In the short term, the US will have to deal with a supply shortage. The country currently lacks refining capacities and import growth is facing challenges considering the tight international oil market. In the long term, a supply shortage is also expected. While the insufficient refining capacity can of course be remedied, it will not completely offset the higher demand. The US will still be in competition for oil with other countries, whose demand is also on the rise. In short, the current transport system in the US contributes to unsustainable energy consumption. It will become harder to satisfy the current level of demand in the future. 19

34 2.3.2 The environmental and health impacts of automobile traffic in the United States In addition to the energy security concerns it raises, transport has its downside in environmental terms. Not only is the US the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, but its urban agglomerations also suffer from local air pollution. The US has 4 % of the world s population, but accounted for almost a quarter (24 %) of global CO 2 emissions in 1998 (UNFCCC/UNEP, 2002). Between 1990 and 1999 its emissions increased by 11 % (idem). And they are still growing, mainly driven by the transportation sector, which makes up approximately 30 % of greenhouse gas emissions in the US (UNFCCC, 2005). According to the Energy Information Administration s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook (DOE/EIA, 2005b) transport s CO 2 emissions are projected to increase by 1.8 % annually between 2005 and 2025 under unchanged policies. While the EIA expects efficiency gains in the aircraft and rail sector, it also projects that this will be offset by increasing highway travel and stagnating vehicle fuel efficiency. If no new measures are taken, CO 2 emissions will go up from 1,872 to 2,796 million metric tons between 2003 and 2025 (DOE/EIA, 2005b). All the while, the current administration opted out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 and refuses to issue more stringent CO 2 regulations on the grounds that it could damage economic growth. To date, these emissions are not restricted in the US. Interestingly, the Clean Air Act (CAA) from 1970 lists carbon dioxide as an air pollutant and explicitly gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to include the named substances in pollution prevention programs. However, the Bush administration asserts that the CAA does not include CO 2, and that any regulation of CO 2 would be too costly. This was made clear by President Bush (2001) in a letter to a group of senators, in which he repeated his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. Only recently, the White House reaffirmed its stance, when it stated that it was 20

35 Substance (million metric Projection % change tons CO 2 equivalent) Greenhouse gas emissions Energy related carbon dioxide 5,750 6,812 8, Methane Nitrous oxide Gases with high global warming potential Other carbon dioxides Total greenhouse gases 6,876 8,128 9, GDP (billion 2000 US $) 10,075 13,869 20, Greenhouse gas intensity a a thousand metric tons CO2 equivalent per billion 2000 US $ of GDP Table 2.4: Projected changes in US greenhouse gas emissions, GDP and greenhouse gas intensity, Source: DOE/EIA, 2005b not convinced of the need for action against climate change in response to a proposed energy bill containing tighter CO 2 emissions regulations (Hulse, 2005). Rather than implementing obligatory standards, since 2002, the US government relies on a voluntary program of greenhouse gas reduction. It focuses on improving the economy s carbon efficiency as opposed to meeting a specific reduction target. While this is certainly positive, current policies will still lead to an absolute increase in emissions (Tab. 2.4). The only indirect restriction of CO 2 in the US actually exists in the transport sector: the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards define the average fuel intensity of the cars sold by an auto-manufacturer in a given year. The amount of fuel a car burns is related to its greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, CAFE is less stringent than the European and Japanese standards, and it has not been tightened over the last decade, except for a tiny increase in Regarding the financial effects of climate change in the US, losses will mostly outweigh the gains. Munich Re, a major reinsurance company, estimates that by 2050, the US will have to spend approximately 68 billion 21

36 US $ per year to battle climate change effects (Munich Re, 2001). Because of changing rainfall patterns and temperature zones, experts expect agricultural zones to shift. For example, dryer and hotter weather is forecast for the US grain belt, which will have an adverse influence on crop productivity (UNFCCC/UNEP, 2002). Forestry, natural habitats, bio-diversity and water resources will be affected. Submersion of coastal areas and desertification will result in land loss. Because of warming sea waters, extreme weather events such as hurricanes could become more intense and more frequent, with high macroeconomic costs accruing in their wake. Although the record hurricane season of 2005 cannot be linked solely to climate change, a statistically significant increase in the number of hurricanes has occurred in the past 30 years. The second environmental problem linked to transport is local air pollution. Exhaust fumes from mobile emitters cause widespread health problems. In spite of environmental laws attempting to ameliorate air quality, most urban agglomerations - especially the coastal stretches between San Diego and San Francisco and between Maine and Virginia as well as many major cities between the coasts - suffer from bad air quality. Starting with the 1970 Clean Air Act, noxious components of exhaust fumes were restricted. These measures were efficient in reducing emissions of new cars by 70 to 80 % by 1981 (Porter, 1999). But because vehicle miles driven also increased during that period, the actual reduction was only 42 %. In 1990, an amendment to the Clean Air Act established National Ambient Air Quality Standards and implemented more stringent regulations on mobile sources. It included fuel quality standards and tighter pollution standards for transport emissions, reducing tailpipe emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matters on a phased-in basis which starting in California has to be mentioned specifically, because it regulates much more strongly than any other US state. Pollution control is urgent in California: not only is it the most populous state, 22

37 but it also suffers from high smog levels. In general, air quality in the US has improved since the introduction of the CAA, but it is still not satisfactory in most urban agglomerations and the toll on human well-being stays high. In 2003, more than 60 million Americans lived in non-attainment areas where concentrations of one or several air pollutants exceeded EPA health standards (OECD/WEP, 2000). In sum, the increase in individual mobility needs has led to the creation of unsustainable transport systems, worldwide as well as in the US. 23

38 Chapter 3 The case for hybrid technology What can be done to make transport more environmentally sustainable and less energy intensive? Hybrid vehicles offer a technical solution to this problem. 3.1 An ecological technical invention The combination of internal combustion engine and electrical engine makes hybrid cars more fuel efficient and less polluting. They are termed an ecological technical invention for this reason How hybrid cars work: a new drive-train system In the automobile world, the term hybrid refers to any car that combines two different power-generating units (PGUs). Here, it will be used only to designate hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) which combine an internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor and a battery pack. Other basic components of a hybrid are a transmission and an electronic control system that decides which power unit will be used. A thorough explanation of the mechanical components and technical functionality of HEVs can be found in 24

39 Figure 3.1: Illustration of HEV drive-train configurations: Parallel, series and series/parallel-design Kreith et al. (1999), Husain (2003) or Jefferson and Barnard (2002). Unlike standard cars equipped with only an ICE, hybrid cars can be propelled by the sole electric motor. And unlike electric cars, they do not need to be plugged in, because the battery recharges itself from the onboard ICE during driving. There are two basic design options, and a third configuration combining them (see Fig. 3.1): Series design: Only the electric motor provides propulsion power. The ICE generates electricity and recharges the battery powering the elec- 25

40 tric motor, which in turn propels the wheels. It is by far the simpler configuration, but the need for a generator and a big battery pack make it expensive. Parallel design: The car can be powered by both the electric motor and the ICE, either simultaneously or separately. The parallel design is the configuration used in the first model that came to the market, the Honda Insight. It has various advantages: The possibility to simultaneously use both PGUs makes it more powerful than a series drive-train; and the direct coupling of power to the road renders it more efficient. It dispenses with a generator and the battery pack is smaller than in a series drive-train, which helps keep costs and weight down. But combining two power sources and regulating which one is to be used makes it more complicated mechanically and electronically. Series/parallel drive-train: The most successful model on the market, the Toyota Prius, uses yet another strategy, combining series and parallel design to maximize advantages and minimize disadvantages. Its ICE has the ability to drive the wheels directly. But the engine can also be disconnected from the wheels and used to power a generator (i.e. to recharge the battery), which results in near optimum efficiency operation. A complex algorithm controls which engine is used: At slow speeds, the HEV relies on the electric motor for propulsion; at higher speeds, it relies on the ICE. The auto-industry distinguishes between hybrids according to the degree of hybridization. Conventionally, this has been done by identifying the relation between the amount of power supplied by the electric motor and by the combustion engine. However, once regenerative braking comes into play, it gets more complicated, because it does not fit into the scheme devised. It therefore seems more useful to differentiate among hybrids according to the 26

41 technology steps that remove them from standard ICE vehicles. Friedman (2004) proposes five levels of hybridization: Idle-off: All hybrids have the capability to automatically turn the engine off when stopping. But this can also be achieved in a conventional vehicle through a starter-generator. Regenerative braking: Braking energy is captured by the electric motor and stored in the battery pack. This requires a system in which at least 10 % of the vehicles power comes from the electric motor. Otherwise, voltage and power levels are too low to capture braking energy significant in terms of fuel efficiency. Scale-back of the ICE: The conventional engine is downsized and combined with an electric motor in order to boost performance at times when operational demands peak. A vehicle that incorporates these first three technology steps is labeled a mild hybrid. Electric-only drive: If, in addition to idle-off, regenerative braking and engine downsizing, a vehicle can drive relying solely on the battery pack and the electric motor, it qualifies as a full hybrid. The electric drive-mode is used at low speeds, when it is most efficient. Lengthened battery-electric range: The last step of hybridization is to expand the range a vehicle can travel in electric-mode only by providing the possibility of external recharging. Such vehicles only exist as concept cars as of yet. A hybrid that could be plugged into the electricity grid could cover most of the daily distance a person drives in electric mode. After the complete discharge of the battery, the ICE would take over. The concept is nothing new - the first hybrid-electric car was build by Ferdinand Porsche in Indeed, in the early years of the automobile 27

42 age, electric and hybrid vehicles were no rarety. But ICE vehicles came to dominate them eventually, and the hybrid concept has not been employed in mass manufactured cars until recently. The dual propulsion system and the ensuing control complexities made the model unattractive compared to conventional vehicles. In addition, the higher costs were perceived as prohibitive for market entrance. But with the development of new controlling algorithms and the advancements in battery technology in the last decade, hybrids became a potentially viable alternative to conventional cars. Their superior energy and environmental performance and the need to comply with stronger environmental regulations prompted several manufacturers to pursue this line of production Hybrids energy and environmental performance Hybrids qualify as an environmental technological innovation. According to Huber (2004, pg. 1), environmental innovation includes any kind of innovation - technical, economic, legal, institutional, organizational, behavioral - that leads to an improvement of ecological quality, regardless of any additional advantage or motive. Gas-electric vehicles could be a step towards a more sustainable transportation system since they both provide better energy efficiency and emit fewer pollutants than standard ICE vehicles (Friedman, 2004). Another important consideration is that if hybrids were to enter into mass-production, prices for batteries and electric components would decrease, ultimately benefiting the transition towards a fuel-cell/hydrogen economy. Although hybrid vehicles can by no means be called a technical fix in the spirit of Weinberg (1993), i.e. a technical solution for a social problem, they are certainly more sustainable than conventional vehicles. 28

43 A closer look at hybrids energy performance reveals considerable advantages over conventional vehicles. In part-load operational range (at slow speeds and/or without vehicle load) the ICE has a very low thermal efficiency. Standard ICE vehicles are built to reach optimum efficiency at high speeds or high load, when the motor is running at maximum power and at high temperatures. However, half of the time, the distance covered is under 3 miles (Lenz and Legat, 1997, conversion from kilometers to miles by author) and the motor does not attain a sufficient temperature to run efficiently. At the most common speeds and loads, an ICE s efficiency reaches on average 0.17, which means that only 17 % of the energy contained in the fuel is transformed into propulsion (Dauensteiner, 2001). At the optimum efficiency point the efficiency more than doubles, to But this point is hardly ever attained during everyday driving. This is where the hybrids advantage lies: Instead of a big engine, whose full potential is almost never needed, hybrids get by with a downsized engine - and an additional boost from the electric motor only when necessary. At slow speeds, the electric motor powers the car on its own. During normal driving, the smaller combustion engine runs with a consistent power output and therefore can be optimized to operate close to the optimum efficiency point. Every time additional power is needed (e.g. for accelerating or hill climbing), the electric motor kicks in and gives the car an extra power boost. Along with idle-off and the recapturing of energy through regenerative braking, hybrids save a lot of fuel in comparison to conventional cars. The Toyota Prius gets a combined mileage of 55 mpg 1 (4.28 l/100 km), which is very low considering that it is a midsize car. Hybrids have a lot of potential for fuel and emission saving (Friedman, 2004): In the future, a full hybrid with advanced technology could get 2.5 times better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle. Over its lifetime, fuel savings would amount to about 1 The fuel efficiency numbers used in this thesis are EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates and derived under ideal testing conditions. In real world driving, the vehicle usually gets 5-10 % less mileage. 29

44 CO 2 emissions due to land transport in the US 31 % Journeys made in urban areas in the US 75 % Percentage Energy normally lost in braking in urban driving % Energy potentially recoverable by regenerative braking % Overall potential for CO 2 reduction % Table 3.1: Potential for the reduction of CO 2 emissions in the US by use of regenerative braking. Source: Jefferson and Barnard, ,000 $ 2 and greenhouse gas savings to 47 tons. An advanced mild hybrid would still get 100 % better mileage than a conventional car and avoid 41 tons of greenhouse gases. Since a hybrid consumes less fuel, it also emits less harmful substances. On the global level, HEVs contribute to the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Because braking energy is lost as heat in conventional vehicles and because this loss constitutes up to 45 % of the energy consumed by a car in city-driving, regenerative braking has tremendous potential for increasing fuel efficiency and cutting emissions. Jefferson and Barnard (2002) estimate that CO 2 -emissions and fuel consumption could decrease by as much as 8 % if regenerative braking was applied to every car in the US fleet (see Tab. 3.1). At first sight, it seems highly unlikely that every car in the US will be equipped with this feature in the near future. But it has been done before: the catalytic converter has become widespread despite its high costs. Sound emission policies led to its diffusion. On the local level, gas-electric vehicles have a decent environmental record. They emit less noxious particles than most conventional cars. Especially full hybrids are clean in city driving, because up to a speed of 15 mph they drive in electric mode. And urban agglomerations are the place where cleaner cars are most urgently needed. All the hybrid models currently on the market 2 Note: Friedman (2004) assumes a fuel price of 1.40 $ per gallon. At current fuel prices of 2.50 to 3 $, the savings would be even higher. 30

45 meet today s most stringent federal emission standards, the Tier 2 standards, and comply with the even stricter California ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) or even SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) standards. 3 It is important to note that some conventional vehicles also attain these standards, which means that hybrids are not inherently cleaner. But considering that we stand only at the beginning of the technological trajectory, it is safe to assume that there is room for improvement. Maybe more so than for conventional vehicle technology, which is very mature and has already exhausted a lot of methods to reduce emissions. Weiss et al. (2000, pg. 12) state that among all the vehicle designs examined in their study on the life-cycle effects of automobile technologies, vehicles with hybrid propulsion systems using either ICE or fuel cell power plants are the most efficient and lowest-emitting technologies assessed. The effect of hybrids on greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and fuel consumption depends of course on their diffusion. Analyzing the economics of hybrid cars can shed light on their overall potential to attain a more sustainable transport system. 3.2 The economics of hybrid cars In terms of energy demand and ecological impact, hybrid technology seems promising - but what about the market prospects? Will they be able to overcome the market entrance barrier and attain wider diffusion? 3 A thorough description of the regulatory environment and an analysis of federal and California emission standards can be found in Chapter 5. 31

46 3.2.1 The market for HEVs - current situation and projections The demand for gas-electric cars is growing fast. Although they still account for only a minuscule portion of the US automobile market - more precisely 0.5 % - the high growth rates in hybrid sales give reason to conjecture a more considerable market share in the next years. According to Toyota Motor Company, global demand for the Toyota Prius rose by 71 % percent from 2003 to 2004 (Inoue, 2004). With only five days on dealer lots, the Prius has the fastest turnover rate of all vehicles in the US (J. D. Power and Associates, 2004b). In another study by J. D. Power and Associates (2004c), 63 % of interviewees state they are probably interested in hybrid technology and 5 % state they are definitely interested. Awareness of hybrid technology is already high, which is additional evidence that hybrids are in for a fast rise. Suppliers seem to anticipate a sustained growth of the demand for hybrids. Otherwise they would not be scrambling to bring their own models to the market. Currently, there are only a few HEV models being sold, but more are soon to come. Honda and Toyota were the first-movers. The Honda fleet contains three mild hybrids, the Civic Hybrid, the Accord Hybrid and the first commercial hybrid ever, the 1999 Insight. In 2001, Toyota came out with the first full hybrid, the Prius, which remains the most successful gas-electric car to date saw the first hybrid sport utility vehicle (SUV), the Ford Escape. Toyota followed suit with the Highlander in spring The American Big Three auto-makers are scheduled to come out with their own models (two pickups and a SUV) by the end of this year. All in all, by the end of 2008, there will be more than 20 hybrid vehicles on the US market (see Tab. 3.2). But the exact growth rates of hybrid demand remain uncertain. The available scenarios diverge widely in their projections of future HEV market share and the impact on fuel consumption and transport emissions. Gov- 32

47 Make Model Type Year Honda Honda Insight Compact car 1999 Accord Hybrid Midsize car 2004 Civic Hybrid Midsize car 2003 Toyota Toyota Prius Compact car 2001 Highlander Midsize SUV 2005 Camry Hybrid Midsize car 2006 Lexus RX 400 Hybrid Luxury car 2005 GS 450h Midsize car 2006 Ford Ford Escape Compact SUV 2004 Fusion Midsize car 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid Compact SUV 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Midsize SUV 2005 Milan Hybrid Midsize car 2008 General Motors GMC Yukon Hybrid Fullsize SUV 2007 Sierra Hybrid Fullsize pickup 2008 Chevy Malibu Midsize car 2007 Silverado Fullsize pickup 2005 Tahoe Fullsize SUV 2007 Saturn VUE Compact SUV 2006 Daimler-Chrysler Dodge Ram Diesel HEV Fullsize pickup 2005 Mercedes Sprinter Hybrid Van 2005 Nissan Nissan Altima Hybrid Midsize Car 2007 Table 3.2: Currently available hybrid electric vehicles and planned introductions. Data compiled from DOE/EPA (2005) and automobile industry websites ernment sources remain cautious in their predictions. According to DOE s Annual Energy Outlook (DOE/EIA, 2005b), gasoline-electric light duty cars 33

48 Category Sales 2002 Sales 2020 (thousands) (thousands) Cars HEV All cars % HEV sales Light duty trucks HEV All cars % HEV sales Total light duty vehicles HEV All cars % HEV sales Table 3.3: The IEA s World Energy Outlook A conservative projection of hybrid-electric light duty vehicle sales, Source: DOE/EIA, 2005c and trucks will only attain a combined market share of 5.31 % in the year 2020 (see Tab. 3.3). Industry expert J. D. Power and Associates (2005) recently published a similarly conservative prediction: Because of insufficient model diversity, the higher purchase price and the competition by ever more fuel efficient ICE vehicles, J. D. Power forecasts that gas-electric vehicle sales will level out at 3 % market share by the end of the decade. Other available scenarios converge around a considerably more positive outlook for hybrids. Greene et al. (2004) use a quantitative model combining announced and expected new hybrid introductions and a model of car choice to project demand for hybrids. For 2008, they predict a market share between 4.6 % and 7.1 %. By 2012, hybrids could make up as much as 10 to 14.9 % of the US car fleet. The scenario also includes diesel vehicles and projects the combined effects of hybrids and diesels on fleet fuel efficiency. The average fuel economy of light duty vehicles is projected to reach 24.6 to 24.8 mpg by 2008, up from 24.3 mpg in By 2012, it could attain 24.9 to 25.2 mpg. These increases may seem small, but this is due to the incorporation of a sales mix shift in the model. The authors assume that part of the 34

49 efficiency gains through hybrids will be offset by a trend towards heavier and stronger cars, which could very well reflect reality. Without hybrids, fuel efficiency could stagnate or even decline - as it has done for most of the last decade. As in any model, some simplifications have been made. For example, no improvements in ICE fuel efficiency are assumed over the time period. Moreover, the scenario is based on the assumption of the political status quo, i.e. the potential influence of tougher emission or fuel efficiency standards is not taken into account. If adequate measures were taken, the market share of hybrids could be even higher than projected here. Unlike Greene et al. (2004), Gott et al. (2002) incorporate a geopolitical and regulatory dimension. The authors develop three scenarios with diverging prospects for hybrids. The baseline scenario computes market share based on an unchanged economic and regulatory environment. Under these circumstances, the authors see a combined market share of 9 % for mild and full hybrids in 2020, and an additional, considerably higher share of 58 % for micro-hybrids (i.e. only using idle-off). The prediction changes under the condition of more stringent environmental standards. In the easy street scenario, the assumption is that particulate matter will be more strictly regulated, but fuel prices will be low and the economy robust. In that case, the authors predict a market share of 11 % by 2020 for full and mild hybrids together and of up to 57 % for micro-hybrids. The third scenario is based on the assumption of a considerably less friendly economic environment and stricter regulations. Rough Ride, as it is called, depicts a situation with disruptively high fuel costs, little or no economic growth and tough environmental standards. Under these circumstances, hybrids are predicted to capture a quite substantial market share by 2020: 46 % for mild hybrids, 11 % for full hybrids and 37 % for micro-hybrids. However, Gott et al. (idem) ascribe only a 10 % probability to this scenario. In contrast, Baseline has a 50 % and Easy Street a 20 % chance to come true. Unfortunately, the authors fail to expose the explicit computation of their scenarios, although their approach 35

50 seems rather comprehensive. 4 Burke and Abeles (2004) project at least 30 % of hybrid penetration by 2020 but they also fail to make their methodology explicit. The divergence of the available scenarios mirrors the existing uncertainty about the long-term fate of hybrids. One thing, however, seems certain: With the right policy measures, hybrids could capture a significant market share and have a tangible impact on both fuel consumption and vehicle emissions Overcoming the market entrance barrier Judging by the fast rise in demand, HEVs are about to surmount the market entrance barrier and attain wider diffusion. This successful start is puzzling for two reasons: Their cost structure compared to conventional cars, and the fact that non-gasoline, non-ice vehicles to date have not been doing overly well. In the US, green cars have a history of being confined to niche markets. The gasoline fueled internal combustion engine remains the state of the art with alternative vehicles capturing only small market shares. In 2004, they accounted for a mere 6.10 % of new car sales (Tab. 3.4). Ethanol flex fuel cars that can use both gasoline and another fuel were doing relatively well, with an overall market share of 4.4 % in However, demand for these cars is growing very slowly and even by the EIA s conservative predictions, hybrids will have caught up with them by 2008 (DOE/EIA, 2005c). With demand doubling every year for the last two years, they have already surpassed all other alternative vehicles currently available in the US. Hybrids promising start is especially noticeable when comparing them to electric vehicles. Although the latter were the hope of the 90s and regulators have tried to force their commercialization with countless measures, only 4 It includes the analysis of vehicle use patterns and trends, an assessment of current vehicle technologies, interviews with personnel from more than 50 European, Japanese and American companies in the component supply industry and an analysis of possible developments of oil price and availability, of emissions and fuel efficiency regulations and of economic growth. 36

51 Type of vehicle Ethanol-Flex Fuel ICE Ethanol ICE Electric Vehicle Electric-Gasoline Hybrid Compressed Natural Gas ICE Compressed Natural Gas Bi-fuel Liquefied Petroleum Gas Bi-fuel Total alternative car sales Total new car sales Percent alternative car sales Table 3.4: Alternative vehicle sales in the US (thousands), Source: DOE/EIA, 2005c slightly over 2000 electric vehicles are sold per year in the US. They account for a mere 0.03 % (see Tab. 3.4) of total new light vehicle sales. Reasons for the failure of electric vehicles are plentiful: They have a low range, low maximum speed, and need to be plugged in over-night. Their operating costs top those of a comparable ICE vehicle, not to mention that their purchase price is twice as high (Kreith et al., 1999). Like electric cars, hybrids have elevated operating costs (Lipmann and Delucchi, 2003). At the current price of roughly 2.20 $ per gallon, they offer only moderate fuel cost savings. In the dealer-lot, they feature much higher price tags than comparable vehicles. All this results in a drawn out payback period. Nevertheless, demand for hybrids was already rapidly growing in 2002 and 2003, when gasoline was considerably less expensive and the payback period even longer. Standard economic theory cannot account for this success. It sees actors as rational individuals who are able to draw up a hierarchy of needs, who will always maximize their utility and who are provided with perfect information on market conditions. Thus, it would have predicted little initial interest in hybrids. Indeed, before the introduction of HEVs in the US, the importance of pricing was emphasized if they were to be successful (Santini et al., 1999). The purely economic view led to the pre- 37

52 diction of a very limited market for hybrids. The homo œconomicus model cannot fully explain hybrids real world appeal. Two years ago it did not seem rational at all to buy a gas-electric vehicle. Today, opinions about whether hybrids have reached cost effectiveness diverge. The calculation depends indeed on the factors included and on the vehicle the HEV is compared to. Tab. 3.5 shows a comparison of the three most successful hybrid models with three similar conventional cars. For the two Honda models, a conventional and a gas-electric version of the same cars exist. A comparatively luxurious counterpart was chosen in contrast to the hybrid model. HEV models all come with a large package of standard equipment. Thus, it seemed plausible to compare the two Honda models to a higher tier car. This renders our model slightly biased in favor of hybrids. The payback periods calculated are conservative, because the price difference is relatively small. For the Toyota Prius, the comparison is more difficult than for the Honda models. In size, power and attributes, it ranges somewhere between the smaller Toyota Corolla and the larger Toyota Camry, which is why we chose to compare it to both of them. For all three models, a federal tax credit of 2000 $ was included in the calculation. A tax deduction of 560 $ was assumed, which is equivalent to a marginal federal income tax rate of 28 % Accord Hybrid V6 Civic Hybrid Prius Fuel Type Regular Regular Regular Passenger Volume 103 ft 3 91 ft 3 96 ft 3 Luggage Volume 11 ft 3 10 ft 3 16 ft 3 Transmission Auto (L5) Auto (CVT) Auto (CVT) MPG (city) MPG (hwy) MPG (comb)

53 Accord Hybrid V6 Civic Hybrid Prius Annual Fuel Cost ($) A a B b C c D d MRSP e Compare to Accord EX-V6 Civic EX Corolla LE Camry LE Fuel Type Regular Regular Regular Regular Passenger Volume 103 ft ft 3 89 ft ft 3 Luggage Volume 14 ft ft 3 14 ft ft 3 Transmission Auto (5 sp) Auto (4 sp) Auto (4 sp) Auto (5sp) MPG (city) MPG (hwy) MPG (comb) Annual Fuel Cost ($) A a B b C c D d MRSP e Accord Hybrid V6 Civic Hybrid Prius vs. vs. vs. Accord EX-V6 Civic EX Corolla LE Camry LE Purchase price differential ($) Federal tax credit f Purchase price differential after tax credit b ($) Yearly fuel cost A a savings ($) B b C c D d

54 Payback period g A a B b C c D d a 15,000 mi/year, 2.20 $/ga b 12,000 mi/year, 2.20 $/ga c 15,000 mi/year, 3.00 $/ga d 12,000 mi/year, 3.00 $/ga e Manufacturer s recommended retail price f Tax deduction = marginal federal income tax rate (here: 28%) x 2000 $. g Payback period = price differential / annual fuel cost savings Table 3.5: Cost structure of the three most successful hybrid models and comparable conventional cars. Data compiled from automobile industry websites and DOE/EPA (2005) The payback period changes with the number of miles driven and the level of fuel prices. The more fuel prices rise, the higher the fuel cost savings and the shorter the payback period. Driving a lot also shortens the payback period. This means that in scenario C, where 15,000 mi/year are driven and fuel costs reach 3.00 $/ga, the hybrids are most cost-effective in comparison to their counterparts. As the average new car buyer keeps it for five years, the pay-back period should not exceed this timespan. Being cost-efficient in all scenarios, the Honda Accord boasts the best record, followed by the Civic which is at the brink of becoming cost-efficient. But remember that the calculations are biased towards the hybrid cars. For the Prius, the results are mixed - in comparison to a Corolla, it features a bad cost-efficiency, whereas it seems very rational to buy a Prius if the reference is a Camry. According to Lipmann and Delucchi (2003) the price increments cited in the literature converge around 3,000 $, which shows that the price increments assumed by us are rather small. We also omitted non-fuel operating costs, which are higher for hybrids and prolong the payback period. Lipmann and Delucchi (2003) estimate 40

55 that operating costs are 13 % higher for a Prius than for a comparable ICE vehicle. Offsetting fuel savings and higher purchase price alone does not suffice. For instance, insurance and vehicle registration tax depend on the value of a vehicle and so will be higher for the more expensive hybrids. While some routine non-fuel operating and maintenance costs and the warranty for vehicle components not part of the hybrid system are roughly the same for the compared vehicles, there is a difference in the warranty for the hybrid components. The Prius battery, for example, is only warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles. As of now, there is uncertainty about the long-term reliability of the battery component and the cost of replacing it. It could cost 5,000 US $ or more to change the battery pack. Last but not least, the resale value of the car has to be taken into account. It will depend on the level of fuel prices and on the perception of their future development, as well as on expectations about non-fuel operation costs (Abrahamson, 2005). As the expiration date of the battery pack warranty nears, the resale value of a gas-electric vehicle is likely to take a steep drop. Taking into account the higher price and operating costs and the remaining uncertainties, hybrid cars have not yet attained full competitiveness with conventional cars. Mainstream economic theory would forecast little consumer interest in hybrids - contrary to the reality of fast growing demand and high latent interest. Economic theory is insufficient to explain the triumph of hybrid cars. Thus, we have to look to other, more comprehensive theories to find an explanation. 41

56 Chapter 4 Accounting for hybrids success: sociological contributions The description of the gaps of economic theories in accounting for hybrids success has shown that additional explanatory factors are necessary. We attempt to prove the importance of sociological theory in this respect. 4.1 Literature review Four bodies of literature are of importance for our analysis: First, studies dealing with the social shaping of technology can give an insight into the social character of technical change. Second, the sociology of consumption should not be neglected, because unlike most sociological innovation studies, it deals with the diffusion stage. Diffusion means the dissemination of a product beyond a small group of original suppliers and users and ultimately, the adoption of a technology by the majority of firms and consumers. The third body of literature represents the technical-regime approach, which is included for its ability to conceptualize innovation as a dynamic process. Lastly, paying tribute to the topic of this study, a short review of sociological literature concerning visions of the automobile is appropriate. 42

57 4.1.1 Theoretical background: Acknowledging technology s and consumption s social character Why have hybrids experienced a comparatively successful launch, even though they are more expensive than comparable cars and green cars were never much of a success in the US? The explanatory power of the homo œconomicus model falls short of expectations in this regard. There has to be something else to hybrids. Finding out what this something else is could teach us important lessons on how to further facilitate penetration of HEVs and other green cars. Social shaping of technology In order to account for hybrids success, it is necessary to go beyond a onesided economic approach and conceive of the car not as a mere object, but as a material artifact endowed with social meaning and subject to social shaping. We need to awaken to the fact that all human artifacts are social in essence. Only then can we lay claim to start grasping the meaning of a technology and the nature of its interaction with the social world. The inherent social constructivity of technology has not been acknowledged in sociology from the beginning. Rather, social scientists have focussed on the social effects of technology. Karl Marx, the eminent 19th century sociologist, saw technology as a self-propelled, extraneous force, outside of political or cultural influence. In the 20th century, Jacques Ellul (1954, 1977, 1988) became famous for his trilogy about the role of technology as a factor permeating and blindly changing society according to its own logic. The tradition of seeing technology as a force independent of the social world is also apparent in innovation studies, where it resulted in the so-called technologypush approach. It is centered on the idea of a one-way-street from science to technology to production, where innovations are mere derivatives of scientific discoveries and neither market nor social forces play a role in determining 43

58 technical progress. In the last decades, however, the intrinsic social character of technology has increasingly been recognized. A significant body of literature deals with social and cultural aspects of technological change. 1 The social shaping of technology is more and more seen as a decisive aspect of the innovative process. Especially studies about how social processes affect the success and failure of certain technologies abound. 2 The seminal work of Pinch and Bijker (1987) is of particular importance here, because it first theorized the social construction of artifacts. Today, the study is recognized as the founding text of the approach known as SCOT (Social Construction Of Technology). It is concerned with the earlier stages of the innovation process, when interpretative flexibility of technical artifacts is high, different definitions of an artifact are in competition and processes of closure and stabilization are the norm. SCOT helps explain the very early stages of innovation, when the social definition of the technology and its user context are decisive. With regard to the diffusion stage of the innovative process it is less useful. In general, this stage has been far less the subject of sociological research. But a sociology of consumption does exist and it is essential to examine in how far it illuminates the diffusion stage of innovation. Sociology of consumption While a lot of attention has been granted to psychological and economic motivations behind consumption patterns, the social institutions shaping them 1 A good starting point for further reading are the overviews of current research in the field in the US (Copock, 1992) and in Germany (Rammert, 1992). A more historical perspective can be found in Wagner (1998) and Zukin and Smith Maguire (2004). Alcorn (1997) and Pool (1997) examine in how far technology is integrated in and shaped by social processes. Practical implications for policy makers are described in Rip et al. (1995) and Schot (1992). 2 Kline and Pinch (1996) recount the social construction of cars in the rural United States. Knie (1991) describes the evolution of the typewriter and the failure of the Wankel engine (1994). Other examples are the history of the electron microscope (Kunkle, 1995) and an account of the Challenger accident (Vaughan, 1996) 44

59 have been neglected. The majority of consumption studies stems from the domain of marketing (Warde, 1996). Zukin and Smith Maguire (2004) deplore the lack of contemporary sociological research into consumption behavior in the US and Dant (2000) criticizes that a lot of sociological work on consumption is caught up in the field s economic origins. The material culture, he says, can only be understood in its social context. A central part of his argument is that consumption goes beyond the act of purchase and encompasses the use of and interaction with artifacts, as well as the meanings attributed to them. But in North America, the focus has been on the economic side of consumption for a long time. 3 Contrary to the US, consumption as a means of social distinction has dominated the early discussion in Europe. The French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1986) emphasizes the symbolic meaning of what we consume (and what we do not consume) in his Société de consommation. In today s societies, consumption is not only a means to fulfill one s needs, but a way to distinguish oneself from others. His compatriot Pierre Bourdieu (1979) explores the subject of consumption from a social differentiation perspective in his well-known work La Distinction. Contemporary social studies of consumption have been critical of an overly narrow focus on differentiation. 4 Today, the emphasis is on the role of consumption in the construction of identities and the pursuit of life interests (Otnes, 1988). The idea is that economic behavior has a social context. Moorhouse (1983) was one of the first to recognize the central part consumption plays in people s life in his study about American workers and 3 This neglect of the social aspects of consumption has not always been the case - America produced one of the founding fathers of sociological consumption theory, Thorstein Veblen. His seminal work Theory of the leisure class (1992) was first published in 1899 and has since become a classic of sociological literature. It is centered on the concepts of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, which, respectively, describe the waste of money and time in order to attain a higher social status. 4 Longhurst and Savage (1996), for instance, favor an extension of Bourdieu s concepts to social networks and sociation. 45

60 their cars. Another good example is a monograph edited by Lunt and Livingstone (1992), which is concerned with the everyday experience of mass consumption and its influence on personal identities. The new focus on identity aspects does not foreclose a critical view of consumption - Ritzer (2001), the author of the famous McDonaldization thesis, examines the unintended consequences of modern consumerism. Another recent development in the field is the study of the environmental consequences of mass consumption. Krarup and Russell (2005) and Myers and Kent (2004) look at the effects of consumerism on sustainability. A common view emerges from these studies - patterns of consumption are perceived as social patterns with social consequences. This is in contrast to a purely economic viewpoint, which sees consumption as the mere utilization of and the expenditure for final goods and services. Contemporary sociology has come to take into account the social character of consumption and the social practices behind it. Sociology of consumption, then, is concerned with the study of the interdependence between the use of material artifacts and the social world. While the market is the ultimate instrument of selection in the diffusion stage, consumption remains in essence a social act and is influenced by social rules, institutions and underlying values. It does not end with the act of purchase, but encompasses the interaction with artifacts and the meanings we attribute to them. What and how we consume determines our social interactions. What the sociology of technology can gain from the sociology of consumption is an insight into the stages after the initial market entry. The forces at work here determine a technology s diffusion and ultimate success or failure. Expectations about these forces and user feedback shape the ongoing design process. The short review of relevant literature in the previous section has provided some insights into the development of two branches of social science research: the constructivist studies of technology and the sociology of consumption. Based on this exploration of the social character of consumption 46

61 and technology, the following section will look into the pivotal theoretical concepts employed in this study Pivotal theoretical concepts: Socio-technical regime and leitbild approaches Subsequently, the focus will be on a theoretical concept that stands at the crossroads of the aforementioned approaches: The socio-technical regime approach. In addition, the importance of the leitbild or cultural vision for the understanding of technical regime stability shall be discussed. Technical change and the socio-technical regime approach The dynamic nature of technical change, which includes both market and social forces, and stretches across the invention, production and diffusion stages has perhaps been captured best in the socio-technical regime approach. The notion was first developed by Nelson and Winter (1977) in their evolutionary theory of technical change. They understand technical regimes as mindsets of engineers, i.e. what they think is technologically feasible or at least worth trying. In this approach, the focus lies on engineers perceptions and on market selection environments, which together determine the path of technical change. While the authors admit to the existence of a non-market selection environment, they do not attach great importance to it. In their opinion, it consists only in political or regulatory control. The great short-coming of this approach therefore is the complete lack of a social dimension. Price is the only thing product users are believed to react to. Giovanni Dosi builds on the foundation set by Nelson and Winter in his work on the direction of technical change. He defines technology as a set of pieces of knowledge, both directly practical (related to problems and devices) and theoretical (but practically applicable although not necessarily already applied), know-how, meth- 47

62 ods, procedures, experience of successes and failures and also, of course, physical devices and equipment. (Dosi, 1982, pg. 151f.) This means that technology includes the perception of a limited set of possible alternatives and future developments. Dosi captures this idea by introducing the concept of the technical paradigm, in analogy to Kuhn s scientific paradigm (Kuhn, 1996). It is conceptualized as a pattern of solution of technical problems, based on certain scientific principles and certain technologies. On the basis of such a technical paradigm, a pattern of normal problem solving activity evolves, which Dosi terms a technical trajectory. This approach has the merit of enlarging the concept of selection environments. In fact, Dosi represents the institutionalist branch of evolutionary economics. He emphasizes the influence of institutions such as the military for the direction of technical change (Dosi and Orsenigo, 1988). In another study inspired by Nelson and Winter, Kemp et al. (1998) argue for an even further expansion of the original technical regime concept. They seek to enlarge it to encompass not only engineering and production practices, knowledge and perceptions, but also the selection of a technical path by the institutions, infrastructures and social interactions surrounding the technology in question. They describe barriers for sustainable technologies in the transport sector. Mentioning technological, political and cultural factors on the demand and supply side, they argue: What we have is not a set of factors that act separately as a containment force, but a structure of interrelated factors that feed back upon one another, the combined influence of which gives rise to inertia and specific patterns in the direction of technological change. (Kemp et al., 1998, pg. 181) In the style of Nelson and Winter, they term such a pattern a technical regime. Their approach can inform us about the importance of social and cultural factors in the innovation process. But again, the focus is on the 48

63 earlier stages of innovation, when products are not yet ready for the mass market and are only experimentally employed in niche markets. With regard to the diffusion chances of sustainable technologies, it will be necessary to integrate social and cultural factors into the analysis of a more advanced innovative stage. A promising approach comes from Hård and Knie (2001). Based on the concept of cultural ambiance introduced by Staudenmaier (1985) as an atmosphere permeating both the context of a technology and its design, they identify non-technical determinants of failure and success. To them, success depends on whether the artifact complies with legal structures, fits into existent organizational networks and discursive structures and is attuned to fixed routines and expectations of users. Although the label is different, this approach is clearly following the path of the socio-technical regime approach. Its merit consists in drawing attention to social practices, user perceptions and discursive patterns. Unfortunately, the authors neither develop a causal model of the cultural ambience, nor do they attempt to operationalize their concept. They content themselves with describing examples of failed technologies in the transport sector without specifying concrete indicators for the dimensions they name; possibly because the examples they look at never made it beyond niche markets. Conversely, a model that is concerned with the prospects of mass diffusion of a technology should explain drivers of consumption that propel products beyond niche markets. Cultural visions of technical artifacts and the orthodoxy of the automobile leitbild The variations of the socio-technical regime approach presented above all give indications as to the requirements a new product has to fulfill. It is important to remember that a new technology always has to establish itself against what came before it. The transport system is an excellent example for the difficulties emerging technologies have to overcome: Every alternative 49

64 technology is measured against the status quo of ICE technology. The failure of new technologies to prevail over old ones can often be retraced to the stability of established technological visions. With regard to hybrid vehicles, the challenge is to find out what helps sustainable vehicle technologies overcome this particular barrier. What makes hybrids different from other green cars - or more similar to conventional cars? What are the elements a new vehicle technology has to accommodate in order to stand up to conventional automobiles? A number of German and Scandinavian scholars (Canzler and Knie, 1994; Canzler, 1999; Dierkes, 1994; Dierkes et al., 1996; Hård and Knie, 2001; Knie, 1994, 1997) offer some answers to these questions. They describe the influence of an established vision (a so-called leitbild ) on the success and failure of technologies. Dierkes (1994) first applied the concept of leitbild to the social study of technology. 5 The term stems from the German words for guiding image. In the English translation, Dierkes et al. (1996) use the term cultural vision as an approximation. A leitbild is a crystallization point around which converge conceptions, images and goals connected to a technology as well as visions of what might be attempted or attained. It encompasses past experiences and expectations about the future direction of technical development. 6 The merit of a leitbild is that it creates a common ground between experts and laypersons. Rammert (1992, pg. 84) emphasizes that the leitbild concept stands for a guiding vision or the key frameworks of orientation for making decisions. The key difference with the socio-technical regime is the integration of cultural aspects. Several longitudinal empirical studies have been conducted employing the 5 Originally, the term was used in urban development ( desirable and feasible developments of urban settlements ) as well as in business management ( a vision of future goals of a business ). 6 A number of examples for the concept are conceivable - for instance, knowledge society can be deemed a leitbild. Another good example is the term information highway, which was coined by Al Gore. It evokes the image of a speedy transmission of information while at the same time breaking down the abstract concept of remote data transfer. 50

65 leitbild approach. 7 Of particular significance for our study is the application of the leitbild concept to the automobile by Canzler and Knie (1994). They describe how the early history of the automobile shapes its design even today. When cars first took to the streets at the end of the 19th century, they were a plaything of the rich and an important instrument for enhancing social status. Races were a favorite pastime of the upper class and many race car drivers worked closely with the constructing engineers. Consequently, early motor vehicle design sought to enhance the mechanical properties that guaranteed racing success: good acceleration, maximum speed and a long range. Today, these attributes continue to set the standards every new car has to live up to. The internal combustion engine as conceived by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Friedrich Benz in the Mercedes race car soon became the dominant compulsion technique for automobiles. And this despite its many disadvantages, such as the smelly exhaust gases, the low energy efficiency and the necessity for a transmission system and an external starter! According to Knie (1997), another element originating from the early days of the automobile is the size of a typical car. The complex machinery and the high susceptibility to a break-down made it necessary to have a mechanic on board. In addition, the cars were usually not steered by the owners themselves, but by a driver. And the owner wanted to be able to take along at least one additional passenger. Therefore, the typical design of a car became very early on that of a four-wheeled four- to five-seater with enough room for everyone s baggage. In all probability, this design was also influenced by the example of the carriages, although Knie does not address this possibility. Canzler and Knie (1994) summarize the aforementioned attributes under the label race and travel limousine. According to them, this is the cul- 7 Rogers (1990) examines AT&T s quest to realize the vision of a universal telephone service. Knie (1991) analyzes the consolidation of the unpractical QWERTY typeset combination due to the rigidity of a leitbild established in the early days of the mechanical typewriter. 51

66 tural vision dominating the automobile regime to this day. A look at any contemporary automobile advertisement confirms their point of view: Speed and power are still the dominant concepts. And the trend goes toward ever increasing size and torque. Ironically, the average maximum speed of today s new cars exceeds US speed limits by far. Canzler (1999, pg. 73, translation by author) gives a very apt summary of what the race and travel limousine stands for: According to the reigning understanding of what makes a fullyfledged car, there are four essentials in the task list of an engineer, which [...] establish the universal conception of the automobile: Thus, a car has to offer good acceleration, an acceptable maximum speed, room for at least four passengers and their baggage and a minimum range of 500 km [300 mi] per fuel-up. These requirements are closely connected to the properties of the combustion engine and run like a common thread through the history of the automobile. They do allow for a variety of vehicle types [... ]. But at the same time, the development sketch of the race and travel limousine acts as a veto as soon as one or several of those essentials are not achieved. The race and travel limousine vision consolidated quite quickly and has since been very stable. The history of the electrical car is revealing: Although quite common in the early days of the automobile, the ICE soon became the standard, for all the reasons described above. Since that first lost battle, the electrical vehicle never stood a chance. Today, ICEs are embedded in a larger transportation system, whose infrastructure, legal rules and social practices all contribute to deepen path dependence (Kirsch, 2000). According to Fleischmann (1998), the automobile paradigm is one of the most stable in the history of technology. The transportation system is a large sociotechnical system and as such, it displays considerable resistance to change. 52

67 In order to make such systems more sustainable, Weber (2003) suggests to intentionally construe shared visions of emerging technologies. Through bottom up processes, especially strategic niche management, the transformation of large socio-technical systems can be attained. Traditionally, the explanations for the dominance of the ICE were either technology deterministic ( the internal characteristics of ICE technology were superior to all other available technologies ) or social deterministic ( technological closure was attained by social processes ). The merit of the socio-cultural leitbild approach is that it gives room to both explanations. Internal aspects of a technology are seen as important. But they are not seen as objectively better or worse. Their advantages and disadvantages are context-dependent. The leitbild approach seeks to explain a technological path by going back to its very beginning and taking into account the early technical restrictions and social processes that shape the future development of the technology. Knie s (1997) analysis of the automobile s history and the consolidation of the technical path of the combustion engine is therefore highly relevant to the study of alternative vehicle technologies: it points to the barriers any new vehicle technology has to surmount in order to stand up against the conventional vision of what a car should offer and of what it should look like. 4.2 Propositions for an appended concept of the socio-technical regime We have discussed different sociological approaches with respect to the innovation process and its diffusion stage. None of these approaches lend themselves perfectly to the purpose of this study: explaining the success of an alternative vehicle technology. As will be laid out in the following section, an appended concept of the socio-technical regime comes closest to this endeavor. 53

68 4.2.1 Theoretical construct The socio-technical regime approach (Dierkes, 1994; Kemp et al., 1998) allows for a theoretically and empirically sound analysis of the process of technical change. The reason for this is its dynamic modelling of the innovation process and its ability to incorporate different selection environments. But it has two major shortcomings with regard to our proposed subject of analysis: 1. a focus on supply-side aspects and the early stages of innovation 2. a negligence of non-economic aspects of user acceptance. We therefore propose to append the socio-technical regime concept by introducing demand-side aspects and looking at the diffusion stage, both of which have been neglected in sociological innovation studies (Zukin and Smith Maguire, 2004). The diffusion chances of hybrid technology can be studied by taking into account the relevant selection environments, which act as barriers or facilitators. A new technology either has to be able to accommodate the combined requirements of the diverse selection environments or it has to change them to its advantage. 8 When a new technology is introduced, it has to find its space in an established socio-technical regime. If that is not possible, either the technology fails or a disruptive change occurs, which transforms the whole regime. In the case of hybrids, the technology is not disruptive: It neither demands a fundamental change in production methods, nor in user habits. Thus, we will focus on the way hybrids are making a place for themselves in the existing automobile regime. In how far do they manage to accommodate the different selection environments? And which selection environments are relevant anyway? The selective forces named in the older approaches - markets and institutions - are of course important and will be analyzed. But among others, 8 Of course, the requirements from different selection environments can also be conflictuous, which complicates the situation. 54

69 Hård and Knie (2001) and Kemp et al. (1998) have drawn attention to the importance of social and cultural selection. We attempt to build on their work by defining these dimensions more specifically, operationalizing them and testing them empirically for the first time. Factors like the political climate and the public discourse connected to a technology completely lack in all of the approaches discussed above. We endeavor to include them under the label of a political dimension. Thus, in our discussion of hybrids success, we concentrate on the economic, the political, the cultural, the social and the institutional dimensions of selection. Some of them are more relevant to producers of a technology, others are more relevant to the demand side. For sustainable vehicle technologies to be successful, it is not sufficient that price, quality and the manufacturer s profit are right. The political climate has to be favorable, too. Users have to be persuaded that the new product fits into their routines. The new vehicle has to fit common beliefs and established visions of cars. Firm s institutional capabilities and the legal regulations will also affect diffusion. Subsequently, the dimensions will be set forth in more detail. Economic dimension The economic dimension relates to the price structure of a new technology and its ability to compete with existing technologies. It is of course of importance for both the demand and the supply side. For manufacturers, the most important question is: Will there be sufficient demand for the new technology so that the investments made pay off? For consumers, the question comes down to what they get for their money in comparison to established technologies. Quality, reliability, choice and price play a role for them. Political dimension The negligence of the political environment is a gap in the technical regime approach we try to fill. By political environment we do not understand pol- 55

70 itics in the common sense, but the public discourse around a technology, the level of attention a technology is granted and the state of the political climate. Clean technologies may be subject to special political and public attention depending on the level of salience of environmental, health and energy issues. Salience is a concept employed in the fields of political bargaining theory and consumer psychology. In the latter field, it refers to the level of awareness of certain informations about products, leading to attitude construction (Reed II et al., 2002). Political salience describes a period of high attention paid to an issue or a phase of high awareness for it, resulting in mobilization of the electorate across partisan divides (Givens and Lüdtke, 2004; Baumgartner and Jones, 1993). If a new technology s positive (negative) effects are subject to high political salience, public support for the technology will be maximal (minimal) and the progress of the technology will be smoothed (hindered). With regard to green vehicles, the relevant questions are: What is the political salience of environmental and energy issues? Does the public perceive the technology as a solution to existing problems? Are there risks or negative effects associated with the technology? The political dimension is relevant to the supply side in so far as the public image of a technology affects demand both directly and indirectly, through the level of public acceptance for supportive policy measures. Media coverage and the way political actors seize the issue are important. Manufacturers will of course try to influence this image positively. On the demand side, political salience can have an influence on purchase decisions. 9 Cultural dimension By bringing in cultural and social aspects of selection, our approach draws on the concepts of cultural ambiance (Hård and Knie, 2001; Staudenmaier, 1985) 9 For example, a person might decide to buy chicken instead of beef, because concerns about mad cow disease are prominent in the media. 56

71 and cultural vision (Dierkes, 1994; Knie, 1997). The two are closely related in that they both pertain to soft selection factors. They are not necessarily obvious or easily graspable. Nonetheless, their influence on the success or failure of a technology should not be underestimated. Regarding the cultural dimension, it is important to note that new technologies are measured against the existing status quo. Cultural visions of what is technically desirable and feasible determine the acceptance of innovations that aim to substitute the standard technology. Norms, values and beliefs play a central role here (Hård and Knie, 2001). Cultural visions are not only about the simple minimum requirements. They are also about the dreams and desires connected to an artifact and the image its use is thought to convey. Because the cultural dimension is mostly captured in expectations about product attributes, it forms some sort of product ideology. The relevant questions are: What are the attributes expected from a certain technology? What are the norms, values and beliefs attached to a technical artifact? The cultural dimension is important on both sides of the market: cultural visions of technology not only exist in the mind of the consumer, but also in the mind of the engineer and the manager. Automanufacturers will build cars they believe will be accepted by the consumer. In short, they have expectations about the expectations of consumers. Social dimension The social dimension is more about the daily routines and social interactions that make the use of a technology seem more or less advantageous. It captures such diverse phenomenons as social practices and interactions as well as social gratification and group dynamics. Social practices are to a certain degree resistant to change. Here, they are understood as structured social activities linked to the use of an artifact. A technology that accommodates existing social practices will be more easily accepted than a technology that demands behavior changes. In addition, questions of social gratification and 57

72 the acceptance of the technology by relevant social groups play a role. With respect to the social dimension, we can ask: What are the social practices attached to the technology? What are the needs and constraints that shape people s use of the technology? How large is the social gratification derived from the use of a technology? Is the technology accepted by relevant social groups? Again, not only the real social practices and interactions are relevant, but also what manufacturers expect about them. Both on the demand and on the offer side, social selection of technologies occurs. Institutional and regulatory dimension Finally, the institutional and regulatory environment should not be neglected. Dosi and Orsenigo (1988) already pointed out the importance of these factors in shaping the path of a technology. We subsume regulatory and institutional aspects in this dimension, because of their close relationship both in formation and effect. After all, legal regulations are nothing but frozen social rules and their codification can be seen as a product of institutionalization. Both regulations and institutions simultaneously facilitate and restrict our options of behavior. Existing regulations tend to favor the status quo (Fleischmann, 1998). Thus, the more radical an innovation, the less likely it is to comply with existing regulations and the more difficulties it will face to ingrain itself. However, sometimes a policy is specifically designed to bring about new technologies, and is therefore called a commercialization or technology forcing regulation (Wallace, 1995). These regulations, often to be found in the environmental or energy field, set standards that are difficult to comply with when the status quo of technology is used. Thus, they accelerate manufacturers search for alternatives and their commercialization. But firms are not completely free in their choices. Technological capabilities are firm specific and path dependent: What the firm can hope to do technologically in the future is narrowly constrained by what it has been capable of doing in the 58

73 past. (Dosi, 1988, pg. 1130) Therefore, it can be assumed that the chances of a technological regime change towards more sustainability depend on firms experiences with sustainable technologies. In general, firms from countries with stronger environmental regulations and fuel efficiency standards have better capabilities in this respect. Inside the margin of action set by their capabilities, firms are going to choose the technology that promises the most profit with the least costs. It is possible that the technology they choose is more sustainable than other options, but more often than not, it is not the case. This is where technology forcing regulations are useful. Firms will opt for technologies that help them attain compliance with regulations. The relevant questions here are: Can the technology help manufacturers comply with regulatory measures? Will there be need for new regulations? What are firms capabilities to adopt the new technology? The institutional and regulatory dimension are of primordial importance on the supply side. They determine whether a firm is capable of adopting the new technology and they set incentives for firms to move into new technological areas. On the demand side, these factors only act indirectly, by determining the choices available to consumers. In sum, our supposition is that the successful launch of hybrids is due to their ability to adjust to the selection environments described above. The venture is succeeding to make a place for hybrid electric vehicles in the sociotechnical regime dominating the transport system. While economic viability is certainly a precondition, the launch of a new technology is facilitated if it accommodates the social practices, the cultural representations, the political climate and the institutional requirements connected to the artifact it is supposed to replace. It is our aim to remedy the negligence of non-economic aspects in studies of technology diffusion. We propose a two stage model, in which a descrip- 59

74 tion of selection effects on the supply side is followed by an empirical analysis of user attitudes towards hybrid electric vehicles. On the supply side, the institutional dimension is the single most important selection environment in the diffusion stage. Because an empirical study would go beyond the scope of this thesis, we undertake an interpretative analysis of institutional capabilities and relevant regulations. On the demand side, a quantitative survey of hybrid-owners will help determine the importance of cultural visions, social practices and public discourses connected to the use of HEVs. The economics of hybrids have been described above and shall only be briefly recapitulated. However, where appropriate, user perceptions of hybrid s economic aspects shall be taken into account. The central purpose of this thesis is to find out whether and how social, cultural and political demand side aspects are involved in gaining user acceptance for hybrid technology and how this could ultimately be exploited to create a cleaner automobile market. In how far can hybrid technology bring about a transformation towards more sustainability in the socio-technical regime of the transport system? Can early adopters teach us how to make other users - who may be insensitive to energy security and environmental concerns and plagued by more immediate troubles and constraints - take an interest in energy-efficient and clean technologies and use them in a way effectively spinning off energy savings and pollution reduction? Hypotheses To recapitulate our model, it is appropriate to divide our assumptions according to whether they concern the supply side or the demand side of the socio-technical regime. On the supply side, producers endorsement of a technology will be facilitated if the technology can accommodate existing regulatory measures, attain consistency with firms institutional capabilities, 60

75 meet the manufacturers requirements for the functionality of a product and for the profit that can be derived from it. On the demand side, user acceptance is attained if a technology has the basic ability to meet users requirements for functionality, pricing and choice, gain political support for the problem-solving strategy it proposes, accommodate social practices and norms linked to the technology, fulfill cultural visions of what is technically feasible and desirable. Based on the theoretical insights described above, several hypotheses were formulated. Supply side: endorsement of hybrid technology by producers On the supply side, cultural and social aspects are of utmost importance in the early stages of innovation. When a technology has already attained market entry, as in the case of hybrids, economic and institutional factors gain weight. We have decided to confine ourselves to a qualitative-interpretative analysis of these two dimensions, because they are the most decisive dimensions in the current stage of diffusion. Economic dimension H1. The better hybrids cost competitiveness compared to conventional cars and the higher the potential profits that can be derived from them, the more likely manufacturers are to increase the production of hybrids. Every aspect that positively influences hybrids price competitiveness - such as higher fuel prices or tax credits - increases diffusion. Institutional dimension H2. Producers are more likely to increase the number of hybrids they bring to the market a) if hybrid technology can help them better than conventional vehicle technology to comply with fuel 61

76 efficiency, emission and safety standards. In addition, it is reasonable to assume that the institutional capabilities a firm has acquired in implementing sustainable technologies influence the speed of adoption of hybrid technology by that particular firm. Demand side: aspects of user acceptance On the demand side, the most influential selection environments are the economic, the political, the social and the cultural dimension. A quantitative survey of HEV owners will help test the hypotheses empirically. Political dimension H3a. The bigger the concern about fuel prices and energy dependence and the more fuel efficient cars are identified as a possible solution to these problems, the more a person approves of measures supportive of fuel efficient automobiles. Heightened concern about environmental pollution by automobile traffic and the identification of cleaner cars as a solution to this problem has the same effect. Political dimension H3b. The bigger the concern about fuel prices and energy dependence and the more fuel efficient cars are identified as a possible solution to these problems, the higher the interest in hybrid technology. Heightened concern about environmental pollution by automobile traffic and the identification of cleaner cars as a solution to this problem has the same effect. Social dimension H4a. The interest in hybrid technology will be higher among users who perceive hybrids as being accepted by the social groups most relevant to them. Social dimension H4b. The interest in hybrid technology will be higher among users who perceive hybrids as providing social gratification. Cultural dimension H5. The interest in hybrid technology will be higher among users who perceive hybrids as offering the same attributes they have come to expect from conventional cars. Economic dimension H6. The better hybrid s price competitiveness with 62

77 conventional cars and the higher diversity of available models, the more demand for hybrids will increase. Because of the price premium, higher income classes are more likely to purchase a gas-electric vehicle. 63

78 Chapter 5 Supply side: The institutional and regulatory dimension of hybrids diffusion The dissemination of hybrid technology depends to a great extent on the willingness and capabilities of manufacturers to employ it in the cars they produce. Economic, institutional and regulatory aspects determine producers ability and readiness to make use of a certain technology. The economics of hybrid diffusion have been discussed in Chapter 3 but a short recapitulation seems appropriate: Due to the sophistication of the propulsion system, hybrid cars will always be more expensive to manufacture than their ICE counterparts. However, once HEVs reach mass production, costs will fall because of scope and scale effects. And as fuel prices rise, hybrids will become more cost-effective for consumers. All major producers have announced hybrid models for the near future, or already sell them. With gas prices on the rise, manufacturers should have even greater incentives to move into the hybrid market segment. But financial considerations do not completely determine the development on the supply side. Regulatory and institutional aspects are also influential. 64

79 5.1 The regulatory environment With regard to the diffusion of a new technology, the regulatory environment gains importance as far as it facilitates or impedes the adoption of a technology by a company. Sometimes, a new technology will ease compliance with certain regulations. We would then expect manufacturers to adopt it more readily than in the opposite case. In the case of HEVs, three bodies of law affect diffusion: energy policy, emission standards and safety standards. Hypothesis 2 states that producers are more likely to increase the number of hybrids they bring to the market if the feel that now and in the future, hybrids can help them to comply better than conventional vehicles with policy regulations. Conversely, if new standards are necessary, because a technology exceeds the frame set for existing technologies, it can slow down market penetration. In the following sections, the current regulatory environment and its potential influence on the diffusion of hybrids are discussed. To contrast the situation in the US with alternative development paths, a comparison with other industrialized countries is included where pertinent Energy policy Hybrid vehicles are subject to the same fuel efficiency standards and taxes as conventional vehicles. But because of HEVs lower fuel consumption, taxes, subsidies and standards result in different incentives to produce these cars. Excise taxes on fuels for transport and motor vehicle taxes As shown in Chapter 3, fuel taxes are relevant for hybrids diffusion because they affect the length of the payback period. The more expensive gasoline becomes, the easier it is to set off the higher purchase price through fuel cost savings. The US federal excise tax on motor vehicle fuels is very low in international comparison (OECD/IEA, 2004b). The current rate is 18.4 cent per gallon (cpg) for gasoline and 24.4 cpg for diesel. In addition, oil spill and 65

80 clean-up taxes are levied on crude oil and oil products. As of January 2005, state excise taxes on motor vehicle fuels ranged from 8 cpg (Alaska) to 31 cpg (Rhode Island) for petrol and from 8 cpg (Alaska) to 36.4 cpg (Pennsylvania) for diesel (FTA, 2005). On the state level, varying registration and license fees are applicable. A motor vehicle tax does not exist on the federal level, with the exception of the Gas Guzzler Tax. In an effort to discourage the sale of fuel squandering cars, the federal administration introduced it in It is levied on individual cars that do not meet statutory standards of fuel economy and paid by the producer. The combined effect of these taxes on hybrids chances of diffusion is mixed. Economists argue that an increase in fuel prices is the most efficient incentive to increase offer and demand of more economical cars (Porter, 1999). High excise taxes in some European Union countries and resulting high fuel prices have led to a better fleet fuel efficiency than in the United States. The comparatively low fuel taxes and prices in the US do not offer huge incentives for selling (and buying) fuel efficient cars. A fact in support of this argument is that hybrid sales are concentrated in the US regions with the highest state excise taxes, i.e. at the East Coast and in California. As to the motor vehicle tax, it does not result in differences between hybrid and conventional vehicles, so there is no effect on the offer of hybrids. It is a missed opportunity, because motor vehicle taxes can be used in order to support ecological technologies. 1 The Gas Guzzler Tax was well-intended, but it is counterproductive: Because it applies to cars only and not to trucks, it encourages the sale of vehicles that do not fall into the car category. The biggest gas guzzlers - for instance the Hummer - are not subject to the tax at all. The negative effect of this tax is the same for hybrids and other fuel efficient, lighter vehicles. 1 In some EU countries, owners of diesel cars pay a higher circulation tax to compensate for the fact that diesel generally faces a lower excise duty than petrol. In Germany, owners of low emission cars pay lower circulation fees. 66

81 Gross vehicle Maximum deduction weight amount ($) over 26,000 lb 10,000 up to 26,000 lb 6,000 10,000 to 14,000 lb 2,500 under 10,000 lb 1,000 Table 5.1: Hybrid Motor Vehicle Credit: Maximum deduction amounts by vehicle weight. Source: United States Senate, 2003 Energy related programs, subsidies and tax exemptions Energy related programs, subsidies and tax exemptions make up an additional set of regulations affecting hybrids. Rising oil prices and heightened concern about energy security have led to a number of measures in favor of fuel efficient cars. The Energy Tax Policy Act of 2003 (United States Senate, 2003) is exemplary for this development. With regard to hybrids, its most important provision is the hybrid motor vehicle credit. Tab. 5.1 gives the deduction amounts. This tax credit allows producers to sell their cars at a higher price. As such, it encourages rather than discourages producers to offer hybrids and other alternative cars. The 2003 Energy Tax Policy Act also contained a provision for the increase of the federal fleet s fuel economy by at least 3 mpg by Moreover, a 200 million $ grant program assists states and localities in acquiring alternative-fuel, hybrid, fuel cell and ultra-low sulfur diesel vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are very well suited to the city driving that fleet cars are most used for. It can be expected that this measure furthers manufacturers willingness to produce hybrids in so far as it provides them with a small but secure market segment. In 2005, a new energy bill (United States House of Representatives, 2005) was introduced, which extended the tax deduction for hybrids. The focus of the bill, however, was to lower energy prices by increasing production. The bill provides for subsidies towards increased oil recovery efforts. The indirect effect of lower gasoline prices would be less in- 67

82 terest in hybrids, which is why the impact of the 2005 Energy Bill on HEVs is mixed. Efficiency standards and energy conservation standards Efficiency standards play an important role for the diffusion of hybrids. The stricter they are, the more urgently manufacturers need to find technologies that help them comply. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1978 established fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars. The CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards indicate the combined fuel economy of a fleet of new cars sold by a company (Bamberger, 2003). Since 1978, the standards have been increased periodically, but in the last decade, they stagnated (see Tab. 5.2). Only on April 1, 2003, did the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issue a rule to boost CAFE of light-duty trucks by 1.5 mpg by 2007 (DOT/NHTSA, 2004a). It is the first increase in CAFE since Currently, light truck fuel economy standards do not apply to vehicles above 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW). This leads to the same effect as described for the Gas Guzzler Tax: An incentive for the automotive industry to sell heavier, bigger cars to which the regulation does not apply. In August 2005, under the impression of higher fuel prices, the Bush administration publicized plans for more changes in fuel economy regulations (Hakim and Broder, 2005). Not only are CAFE standards to rise even higher (23.5 mpg for light trucks by 2010), but the government is also willing to abolish the old model of overall corporate fleet economy. Its plan is to differentiate light trucks into six groups according to their dimensions. Critics say that again, this system is subject to exploitation. 2 The provisions continue to exclude the biggest gas guzzlers in the Hummer category. They are less stringent than the ones California proposed and which some 2 For instance, Subaru need only increase the size of their Outback model by a few inches to fall into a higher, less strict category. 68

83 Year Passenger cars Light trucks Table 5.2: Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks: model years 1992 through 2007 (mi/ga). Source: DOT/NHTSA, 2001, 2004a states in the Northeast and Northwest have signalled they want to adopt, too. These states plan to introduce indirect efficiency measures by regulating emissions, as the amount of CO 2 emitted is directly related to fuel consumption. While under the federal plan, fuel savings are projected to reach 10 billion gallons over 10 years, California proposes to save 1.7 billion gallons in California alone over a period of only five years (Hakim, 2005a). It already has the strictest emission and efficiency standards in the whole United States. However, the new federal proposal maintains that the California regulations meddle with its own regulatory authority. In addition, manufacturers are already suing California about its proposed emission standards. It is therefore not sure if the states will be able to realize their plans. So what is the effect of efficiency standards on the offer of hybrids? It is already apparent that manufacturers concentrate their offer of hybrid cars in the regions with high emission (and therefore fuel efficiency) standards. We can deduce that the regulations are technology forcing and serve as a strong impetus to offer hybrid cars. The federal standards are weaker, but their specific design could actually help hybrid technology: CAFE is based on the average fuel consumption of all cars sold by a company in one year rather than on the consumption of the different models sold. Bigger, heavier cars are 69

84 more profitable for the producer and at current fuel price levels, consumers tend towards these cars. But their sales are limited by the necessity to comply with CAFE. To balance their fleet average fuel economy, manufacturers must persuade some consumers to buy smaller, lighter, more efficient cars (Lave and Lave, 1999). They have done this by lowering prices. In fact, General Motors (GM) and Ford loose money on small cars. Hybrid technology offers a way out of this dilemma. Because it grants efficiency gains, but does not rely on the usual method of downsizing and light weight materials, it is especially well suited for large vehicles. It could entice manufacturers to raise the fuel economy of their large cars instead of having to sell small cars at a loss. It cannot come as a surprise that out of the six hybrid vehicles GM plans to bring to the market by 2008, five are SUVs or trucks (see Tab. 3.2, pg. 33). Hybrid vehicle technology is a means to comply with existing standards without sacrificing profits and as such is attractive to automakers. The technology eases compliance with fuel efficiency regulations, which is why the automotive industry should be willing to adopt it Environmental policy Emission standards: greenhouse and global emissions The Clean Air Act (EPA, 2002a) of 1990 established National Ambient Air Quality Standards and implemented regulatory measures on stationary and mobile sources. It includes tighter pollution standards for emissions from automobiles and trucks, reducing tailpipe emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matters on a phased-in basis which started in 1994, with the Tier 1 standards. It also requires onboard diagnostic systems in vehicles. The permitted concentrations are detailed in the National Emission Standards Act (EPA, 2002b). Tab. 5.3 gives an overview of the most important substances. Tighter Tier 2 standards are currently being phased in and will enter into force in

85 Vehicle Type Tier CO HC NO x Particulates LDV Tier a Tier b 0.08 LDT 1 Tier b 0.08 LDT 2 Tier c 0.08 LEV ULEV SULEV a applies to diesel vehicles only b 1.0 for diesel-fueled vehicles through 2003 model year c does not apply to diesel-fueled vehicles Vehicle life used for the purpose of emission regulations is 5 years or 50,000 miles Table 5.3: Federal certification exhaust emission standards for light-duty vehicles (passenger cars) and trucks (up to 6,000 lb), g/mi. Source: EPA, 2005 Under section 110 of the Clean Air Act, states are granted the possibility to develop their own provisions for emission control (EPA, 2002a). The socalled State Implementation Plans (SIPs) can provide for emission standards and pollution controls exceeding the federal provisions. 3 Some states, led by California, have used this opportunity. The impact of pollution standards on the automotive industry s willingness to build HEVS is probably similar to the impact of efficiency standards: The stricter the regulations, the stronger the push towards hybrids. Especially the fact that stricter standards are coming into effect in the next years is an advantage for hybrid technology. Fuel Quality Control The Clean Air Act also provides for fuel quality standards (EPA, 2002a). A lead phase down starting in 1973 was followed by a complete lead ban in Other steps taken include reductions in gasoline volatility to decrease evaporative emissions of gasoline in the summer months, the treatment of 3 SIPs also include voluntary mobile source emission reduction programs, e.g. work schedule changes, vehicle use limitations/restrictions, small engine and recreational vehicle programs and special event travel demand management 71

86 gasoline with detergents and deposit control additives and standards for low sulfur gasoline and low sulfur diesel. At first sight, these measures do not have a direct effect on the offer of hybrid vehicles. But we have to keep in mind that cleaner, low sulfur fuels are necessary for catalytic converters to work properly. Better fuel quality is a prerequisite for cleaner vehicle technologies. On the state level, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) established a very effective fuel quality program. The Clean Fuel Car Pilot Program required the phase-in of tighter emission limits for 150,000 vehicles by model year 1996 and 300,000 by model year The quotas can be met with any combination of technology and cleaner fuels and became stricter in While the initial purpose was to get more electric vehicles on the road, manufacturers increasingly turn to gas-electric propulsion systems in order to fulfil the requirements. The advantage of this technology forcing measure is its flexibility. Only the goal is prescribed, not the means to attain it. The automotive industry seems to recognize the potential of hybrids to help them reach this goal: All manufacturers sell more hybrids in California than anywhere else in the US Safety policy Safety aspects can also play a role in the diffusion of a technology. Because hybrid technology means a change in design and components, vehicle safety in accidents could be altered. Two aspects of the technology affect safety - one positively and one negatively: The electric components and the lower center of gravity of hybrid cars. The high-voltage batteries in hybrids provide a potential risk. New regulations were necessary under the federal motor vehicle safety standards (DOT/NHTSA, 2004b). Standard No. 305 regulates electrolyte spillage and electric shock protection: The electrical components of hybrids have to be completely sealed off so that nobody can be hurt or killed by an electrical shock in the case of an accident. This means two 72

87 things for manufacturers: They have to spend money on the insulation of the electrical components, which increases the cost of the technology. And because new regulations were necessary, uncertainty about the future of the technology probably reigned in its early diffusion stage. The latter hurdle has been taken, but in the case of radical innovations, the need for new regulations can delay the process of market entry (Fleischmann, 1998). For the second aspect named above, the lower center of gravity, the effect on vehicle safety is positive. Because of their battery packs, hybrids are heavier than comparable conventional vehicles. The packs can partly be stored under the floor of the passenger area, thus lowering the HEVs center of gravity. It makes them less vulnerable to roll-overs - the primary cause of death in car accidents. According to a NHTSA study (Lombardo, 2001) the increasing number of fatalities in light truck vehicle crashes is mainly due to roll-overs. These vehicles have a very high center of gravity making them prone to topple. For this reason, stricter safety regulations for SUVs and trucks (side airbags, rollover-ratings) are in the pipeline. Hybrid technology is a good possibility for manufacturers to lower the center of gravity and make SUVs and light trucks safer. In sum, the balance sheet for safety aspects is mixed. The hurdle of introducing new safety regulations has been taken. Compared to conventional cars, hybrid manufacturers still have to make an extra production step to ensure safe sealing of the electrical components. In contrast, hybrid technology has advantages for the stability of the vehicle. It could be a solution to SUV s propensity to roll over. Overall, the regulatory environment is more positive than negative for hybrids. The technology is similar enough to conventional ICEs to accommodate most of the existing regulations. In some cases, it can even help manufacturers to attain environmental and efficiency standards. In the mind of the automotive entrepreneurs, this should make hybrid propulsion systems a viable alternative to ICEs provided that the price structure is adequate. 73

88 5.2 Manufacturers capabilities Even if regulations steer firms towards some technology paths and away from others, their institutional capabilities in implementing sustainable technologies determine the actual speed of adoption. The US is the world s largest automobile market and all the big manufacturers are present there. But their records in the adoption of sustainable technologies vary greatly. It is likely that firms also have different abilities to bring hybrid vehicles to the market. Looking at the CAFE values of the different automakers (see Tab. 5.4), it indeed stands out that domestic companies are performing worse than their foreign counterparts. Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and GM have the lowest average fuel economy of all manufacturers. On the other side of the spectrum stand the Japanese groups Honda and Toyota. The top performer, Honda, gets 28 % better fuel economy than Ford at the tail end. A study on the effects of climate change regulations on value creation in the automobile industry (Austin et al., 2003) comes to the conclusion that the three USbased companies are badly prepared to cope with stronger regulations. The carbon intensity of profits 4 is higher for Ford, General Motors and Daimler- Chrysler than for their Asian and European competitors. 5 In the case of stronger carbon constraints they are more vulnerable and will have to bear the brunt of the costs. American manufacturer s have concentrated on developing the profitable large car and light truck market segments. In doing this, they somewhat neglected immediately applicable sustainable technologies. Companies with large market shares in Europe have focussed on the economical diesel cars. But diesels are big polluters and under the outlook of tighter particulate matter emission standards, their prospects suddenly look bleak. Some com- 4 The carbon intensity of profit measures the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the cars of a manufacturer per US $ of profit. 5 The notable exception is BMW. But the German company is oriented towards the luxury segment and as such has a higher ability to pass on costs to consumers. 74

89 Manufacturer Average fuel economy (mpg) Ford 22.8 Daimler-Chrysler 23.2 General Motors 24.0 Others (2 %) 24.3 Nissan 25.4 Hyundai-Kia 26.1 VW 27.3 Toyota 27.5 Honda 29.3 All 24.6 Table 5.4: Corporate fuel economy values for model year Source: Heavenrich, 2005 panies, especially GM and Daimler-Chrysler, have focussed their research efforts on the development of fuel cell vehicles. But these cars will only be ready for the market a decade or more from now. Hybrid technology was dismissed as too complicated and expensive in the last decade. Honda s and Toyota s success has hit the competition as a surprise. All manufacturers are currently scrambling to develop a sound hybrid system for their product line. For instance, General Motors started a hybrid joint-venture with Daimler-Chrysler at the end of 2004 and BMW joined the group in September Ford s vice president for product creation, Martens, recently declared his company s commitment to hybrid technology and announced the development of a hybrid system that could be used in a variety of models (cited in Treece, 2005). But he also admitted to the scarcity of qualified engineers in the field (idem, pg. 35): There s a lot of headhunting going on. [...] It s as bad as I ve ever seen it. American and European automakers are trying to catch up on hybrid technology, but the process is not without problems. At the moment, Toyota and 75

90 Honda definitively have a competitive edge over the rest of the automotive industry (Austin et al., 2003). In nearly a decade of research and development in hybrids, they have accumulated theoretical knowledge and technical know-how that other automakers will find hard to build from scratch in a short period of time. The prospects of hybrids in the United States are also marred by the pervasive crisis of the American automobile industry. In May 2005, Standard & Poor Ratings Services lowered the credit ratings for GM and Ford to junk status. Horrendous costs for health care and pension plans were part of the reason, but the devaluation also resulted from doubts in the companies product strategies (Der Spiegel, 2005b). Both firms depend on the larger vehicle classes for their profits. Under the prospect of higher fuel prices and global warming, analysts believe that their management strategies are illadapted to deal with the arising competitive challenges (New York Times, 2005a). And their bad financial situation will make it difficult to find the necessary means to close the technology gap. Domestic automakers bad shape also creates a problem for policy makers: If they grant subsidies or tax credits for hybrids, they help foreign manufacturers rather than GM or Ford. The same goes for raising the CAFE standards. The domestic automakers would bear a disproportionate part of the costs of higher fuel efficiency standards. This situation puts Congress in a bind. The decision to grant tax credits for all hybrid cars, regardless of their relative fuel efficiency, illustrates this. Under the new energy bill, tax credits will apply to such models as the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, a pick-up whose efficiency improvement is only marginal compared to the conventional Mariner. Compared to an average car, its fuel efficiency is much worse. With domestic automakers under pressure, the situation is potentially dangerous for their foreign-based competitors. Toyota has identified the threat of possible protectionist measures in order to save US manufacturers. It recently announced its willingness to cooperate with GM in the de- 76

91 velopment of a hybrid system. The question now is whether the technology transfer will be successful and how fast it will come about. At the present time, it is difficult to make a final statement about manufacturers capabilities with regard to hybrid technology. But it seems as if the competitive pressure on the part of the Japanese automakers will induce US manufacturers to quicken the pulse of hybrid development - provided that they can find the necessary human and financial capital for it. Our exploration of supply side aspects shows that hybrids still face a lot of difficulties. Nevertheless, HEVs have already surmounted a number of supply side obstacles impeding diffusion. Ultimately, success will depend on their acceptance by end users. 77

92 Chapter 6 Demand side: Empirical study on the user acceptance of hybrid electric vehicles The demand side of HEV diffusion regards all aspects of the use of this technology. Presents users are early adopters, they differ from the mass market. Nevertheless, examining their attitudes empirically can render valuable insights into the conditions for a further successful diffusion of hybrids. It can also help answer the question of hybrids surprising success compared to other green vehicle technologies. This chapter describes the research approach, the design of the study and how the data was analyzed. 6.1 Design of the study In order to gain data about early adopters of HEVs, an online survey was devised. Respondents were asked to answer a number of questions concerning their attitudes towards hybrid technology, their awareness of environmental and energy issues and their driving behavior. 78

93 6.1.1 Selection and composition of respondents The link to the study was posted in several internet forums concerned with hybrid cars. Considering the small number of present hybrid owners, this was the most viable path to gather data. The chances to gain access to data of hybrid users were slim and an internet-based questionnaire promised good response rates. Choosing an online survey over a traditional mail or telephone survey has multiple advantages (Tuten et al., 2002). The comparative ease of data gathering, increased response speed and the low costs of the procedure were all benefits that were of importance in this study. But the online method has a downside, too. Not everybody has internet access - hence an inherent selection effect occurs. And if a survey is posted online with open access for every internet user - as in our case - there is no control over who will fill out the questionnaire. 1 Hence, data gathered from open internet surveys is not sufficient to obtain general statements on the internet user population or the overall population. In contrast to this, online questionnaires can be helpful where particular populations or well-defined topics are concerned. Considering this, we will not presume to draw conclusions about the general population from our study. But this is not the goal anyway. Instead, the aim of the survey is to gain information about attitudes prevalent among early adopters. It is reasonable to assume that the large majority of the respondents are strongly committed to hybrid technology. Examining the group s opinion on hybrids can help us understand why HEVs have gained more widespread acceptance than other green vehicle technologies. And comparing hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners in the group can help us understand what triggers the final decision to commit to a green technology in a group with a high latent interest in the technology. 1 There are other distortions of results that can occur. For example, a person might have an interest in filling out a questionnaire multiple times. A possible motivation is the belief that the survey is read by decisionmakers, who need to be made aware of the righteous cause. We protected against misuse by limiting the number of times a person could gain access to the survey from the same computer to one access. 79

94 Figure 6.1: Distribution of hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners Publishing the study on web-sites concerned with HEVs made it possible to find these highly committed users: We assumed that respondents recruited from these web-sites were likely to display a disproportionately high interest in hybrids, and probably also an unusually positive view of the technology. Indeed, out of 181 US American 2 respondents, 60 % own a hybrid car themselves, and another 35 % say they can imagine buying a hybrid car at some point (Fig. 6.1). As to the demographics, the average age of respondents in the survey is 45.5 years, with over 70 % being between 35 and 60 years of age. The interviewees are highly educated: Only 14.9 % do not have a college degree, and a third of the respondents hold a postgraduate degree or had completed some postgraduate schooling. They are also relatively affluent: More than half of them (53.4 %) have a household income of over 90,000 $ per year and another 19.1 % earn more than 60,000 $ per year. The gender balance in the 2 11 respondents stated their country of origin as Europe, Japan or Canada and were excluded from the analysis. 80

95 study is skewed, with only 30 respondents out of 181 being female. These numbers certainly differ from a representative image of US residents. But they are fairly typical for new car buyers, whose income is disproportionately high and whose education is better than the average person s. They are also more often male than female. In so far, the composition of respondents in our study is not atypical. A comparison with other studies shows fairly similar demographics. Our numbers coincide well with the picture painted by Walter McManus (cited in HybridCars.com, 2005), automotive industry expert and director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan: In a study of over 50,000 hybrid-owners and potential buyers, the average HEV buyer was close to 50 years old and his level of education and income were both well above average. In a representative survey of Toyota Prius owners undertaken in Switzerland (de Haan and Peters, 2005), men are overrepresented, as is the age category from 45 to 69 years. In addition, income and education levels were well above average. The distribution of hybrid models owned by the respondents in our study also mirrors the real world market shares (Tab. 6.1): By far the largest group (83 %) consists of Toyota Prius owners, and this also happens to be the most popular hybrid model. The only other significantly sized group is made up of Honda Civic owners (9.4 %), the second most popular hybrid model. Except for the tiny two-seater Honda Insight, all other models have come to the market only recently and it is not surprising that few interviewees already own one The key variables The questionnaire contains diverse questions on attitudes toward hybrid cars. The complete list can be found in the appendix. Some of them were included to find out descriptive details about people interested in hybrid technology, others were used to obtain variables employed in the statistical testing of 81

96 Hybrid model owned Frequency Percent Toyota Prius Toyota Highlander Honda Insight Honda Civic Hybrid Ford Escape Hybrid Lexus RX 400 Hybrid Total Table 6.1: Distribution of HEV models owned by respondents the hypotheses. The following section describes the most important of these variables. The central independent variable is interest in hybrid technology. It is used to measure the commitment to hybrid technology among respondents. In the questionnaire, an answering scale ranging from 1 not interested at all to 5 extremely interested was provided. Tab. 6.2 presents the frequency distribution among the respondents. There is a large group with a very strong (64.6 %) or strong (24.9 %) interest in hybrid technology, followed by much smaller clusters of respondents who showed moderate (7.2 %), little (2.2 %) or no (1.1 %) interest. The data is leptokurtic and negatively skewed, which means, respectively, that the cases are clustered tightly around the mean and that most of the cases are positioned to the right of it. The uneven distribution of the cases is of course connected to the selection bias of our survey - the respondents were all recruited through internet forums on hybrid vehicles. The low variance among respondents potentially results in a systematic underrating of correlations. This has to be kept in mind when examining the results from the statistical analysis. However, because we can control for hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners, and significant differences occur between these two groups, we are able to use the variable in the analysis. Where appropriate, the dichotomously coded variable own hybrid/do not own hybrid is employed in order to examine 82

97 Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent not interested at all extremely interested Total Table 6.2: Frequencies: Interest in hybrid technology among survey respondents intra-group variance. An additional independent variable is the extent of support for policy measures favoring hybrid cars. Support was measured by the number of items checked on a list of five policy measures designed to facilitate hybrid diffusion. The more items a person checked, the higher her/his overall support. As to the key independent variables, they consist of questions about attitudes toward the technology and its use. In addition, two economic aspects were asked for, i.e. the regional fuel price and the expectations about the future development of fuel prices. The attitudinal measures are concerned with social practices related to car use, the ideology surrounding the product and the beliefs about the technology s problem solving capacity with regard to environmental and energy issues (see Tab. 6.3 for a list of independent variables and their coding). The respective sections contain a more thorough description of how the hypotheses were operationalized. Five-point scales and three-point scales were used to measure the attitudes. Although the variables are, strictly speaking, ordinal, they are used as ratio-scaled variables. It is common practice in the social sciences to assume that such variables are effectively continuous, by assigning them equallyspaced integer values and by combining them into composite indices through addition (Babbie, 1998). We chose this path in order to have access to a wider array of statistical procedures, which cannot be applied to ordinal variables. 83

98 Dimension Variable Coding Political Increase/Decrease of - Energy dependence 1 - less worried concern about... - Environmental issues 3 - more worried Hybrid technology seen - Energy dependence 1 - strongly disagree as a solution to... - Environmental issues 5 - strongly agree - Rising fuel prices Social Social gratification: Driving - Helps the environment 1 - strongly disagree a hybrid conveys a positive - Contributes to national 5 - strongly agree feeling because it... energy conservation effort Acceptance by relevant - Friends 1 - strongly disagree social groups - Family 5 - strongly agree Cultural Expected vehicle attributes - Handling 1 - strongly disagree - Performance 5 - strongly agree - Safety Table 6.3: List of attitudinal measures employed in the study 6.2 Statistical analysis In the following section, the statistical analyses performed are presented. The hypotheses are tested and an exploratory model is devised that attempts to capture the combined influence of social, cultural and political factors on hybrid-ownership Testing the hypotheses In the section on the demand side of hybrids diffusion, several hypotheses were formulated. They regard, in turn, political, social, cultural and economic aspects of the use of hybrid technology. Political dimension The first cluster of hypotheses concerns the political dimension. We expect perceived political salience of environmental and energy issues to influence hybrid diffusion by means of more support for political measures facilitating their diffusion. While the other hypotheses mirror the direct effect of 84

99 attitudes on hybrid-ownership, the political dimension has an indirect effect: High political salience and therefore more support for policy measures favoring HEVs create a politically advantageous climate for the wider diffusion of these cars. In this respect, it is also interesting to examine the variance of perceived political salience between people who own hybrids and those who do not own such a vehicle. Firstly, the correlations between the support for policy measures and the awareness of environmental and energy issues were calculated. Two independent variables were correlated with the support variable: The increase/decrease of concern about environmental and energy issues and the perception of hybrid technology as a solution to these issues. The first measure serves as indicator whether heightened concern for an issue exists. The other one is used to find out whether hybrid technology is seen as a solution to perceived problems. The idea is that political salience exists if there is heightened awareness of an issue and possible solutions are defined. Because hybrid technology is potentially relevant both to environmental and energy issues, we look at both aspects. For each of the two independent variables, respondents were asked about air pollution and climate change to obtain a measure for the environmental issue. They were asked about energy security and fuel prices to obtain a measure for energy issues. Additive indices were used whenever the internal consistency measures allowed it. The relationship between environmental aspects and support for policies turned out to be relatively pronounced (see Tab. 6.4). Heightened concern about environmental issues strongly influenced the number of policy issues supported, with a Pearson s R of The perception of hybrid technology as a solution to environmental problems (Pearson s R = 0.262) is moderately strongly correlated with the support variable. Thus, among the interviewees, a person who sees hybrid technology as a solution to climate change and air pollution is more likely to support several policy measures facilitating hybrid diffusion. This is also the case for respondents whose concern about 85

100 Increase/decrease of concern about environmental problems in the last 2 years less more Total worried unchanged worried Total Number of measures promoting hybrid cars supported Total Pearson s R = Standard error = N of valid cases = 182 (a) Concern about environmental issues HEVs as solution to environmental problems strongly strongly disagree agree Total Number of measures promoting hybrid cars supported Total Pearson s R = Standard error = N of valid cases = 182 (b) HEVs as technical solution of environmental problems Table 6.4: Crosstabulations: Influence of environmental issues salience on support for policy measures 86

101 environmental problems grew during the last two years. Contrary to the environmental aspects discussed above, energy related aspects could not be combined into an additive index. 3 Energy issues influence on the support of policy measures for hybrids is generally weaker than that of environmental issues. Heightened concern about fuel prices does not have a sizeable effect on the number of policy items supported. But a correlation with the support variable exists both if hybrid technology is perceived as the key to more energy independence (see Tab. 6.5(a)) and if it is seen as helping to cope with high fuel prices (see Tab. 6.5(b)). The relationship is stronger for energy independence (0.269) than for fuel prices (0.196). Finally, if a person is concerned about energy security, the number of items supported also increases (see Tab. 6.5(c)). The correlation of is relatively strong. One aspect is noteworthy: Not a single person in the survey was less concerned about energy dependence than two years ago. This is not surprising given the current political situation (Iraq war, California energy crisis etc.). Nevertheless it is a strong indicator that the political climate is favorable for the introduction of fuel efficient vehicle technologies. In sum, political salience of environmental and energy issues has a positive impact on the support for policies favoring hybrids. This confirms Hypothesis 3a and 3b about the effect of political salience. All the independent measures detailed above were examined for variance between hybrid-owners and the rest of the group. For some of the measures, the two groups did not diverge significantly. Whether a person owned a hybrid or not did not make a difference for any of the energy related issues. However, concern about environmental issues and the perception of hybrid technology as a solution to environmental problems both display F-ratios that differ from 1 at the 0.05 significance level. Attitudes towards environmental issues not only play a larger role for the support of policy measures, but hybrid-owners in the study also display stronger environmental attitudes than 3 The internal consistency measure Cronbach s α lies below the advisable value of

102 HEVs as solution to energy dependence strongly strongly disagree agree Total Number of measures promoting hybrid cars supported Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (a) HEVs as technical solution of energy dependence HEVs as a way to cope with high fuel prices strongly strongly disagree agree Total Number of measures promoting hybrid cars supported Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (b) HEVs as a way to cope with high fuel prices Increase/decrease of concern about energy dependence in the last 2 years less more worried unchanged worried Total Number of measures promoting hybrid cars supported Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (c) Concern about energy dependence Table 6.5: Crosstabulations: Influence of energy issues salience on support for policy measures 88

103 those who drive a conventional car. Political salience also has a direct influence on the interest in the technology. Interviewees who thought hybrids had the potential to solve these problems displayed a higher interest in the technology than the rest of the respondents. The influence of hybrids perceived problem solving capacity with regard to environmental problems is exceptionally high: The correlation between this measure and the interest in hybrid cars is 0.383, as shown in Tab Problem solving with regard to energy issues also influences interest. Respondents in the study who were convinced that hybrid technology is a way to cope with high fuel prices displayed a higher interest in hybrids than others. Again, the correlation is quite high, with a Pearson s R of Strong agreement with the statement Hybrids will reduce US dependence on foreign oil, because they bring down overall fuel consumption was correlated with interest in hybrid technology at It is evident that people who ascribe a high problem solving capacity to hybrids are much more likely to take an interest in hybrids than others. Conversely, heightened concern about energy dependence did not lead to a significantly higher interest in hybrid technology among the respondents. Only heightened concern about environmental problems caused by vehicle traffic had an impact, albeit not a very strong one (Pearson s R = 0.170). An analysis of variance (ANOVA) is useful to see what triggers a purchase decision among a committed group. Hybrid-owners in the study show a high level of awareness for environmental problems and energy dependance, but not more so than those who drive conventional cars. The two groups differ in another aspect: HEV-owners are much more convinced that hybrid cars have a high problem solving capacity. The ANOVA results and the fact that Concern has less effect than Problem solving capacity are important for several reasons. On the one hand, they prove that heightened environmental concern does not necessarily result in a change of consumer behavior towards 89

104 Hybrid technology perceived as solution to environmental issues Totally Totally disagree agree Total Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles Pearson s R = Standard error = N of valid cases = very high Total Table 6.6: Crosstabulation: Influence of perceived problem solving capacity on interest in hybrid vehicle technology more sustainability. The weakness of the link between environmental attitudes and action, and especially between attitudes and the willingness to pay for the environment has been demonstrated before (Engel and Pötschke, 1998). Attitudes alone cannot explain variance in behavior satisfactorily. On the other hand, the strong influence of perceived problem solving capacity indicates that the social definition of a technology is very important. Public discourses play a big role in the acceptance of a technology. Hybrid cars are portrayed as a solution to environmental and energy issues in the media and by the manufacturers themselves. In so far as this positive definition of hybrids is accepted by a person, it leads to a heightened interest in the technology. Thus, the obstacle for hybrid vehicle diffusion is not so much the lack of environmental attitudes, but the lacking conviction that hybrid technology can really do something against environmental problems. The same argumentation is valid for energy dependence issues. Social dimension The social dimension is relevant because it adds explanatory elements to an incomplete economic view of technology use. If driving a hybrid car is 90

105 not rational in a purely monetary sense, a person must gain something else from it. Social factors play an important role in this regard. As set forth in Chapter 4, economic theories often have difficulties to explain social actions. A good example for this is the explanation of voting: Given that a single vote makes almost no difference among an electorate constituted of thousands of voters, an individual does not have huge incentives to go to the trouble of voting. Still, a majority of people vote. Social action theory explains this phenomenon by aspects such as social gratification that add an element of utility to the seemingly irrational act of voting. Gratification involves an enjoyment in the use of an artefact. Contrary to personal satisfaction, social gratification is derived not from personal pleasure in doing something but from the feeling to have fulfilled a social obligation. It is the experience of acknowledgement and the feeling of having done something for the community at large that makes social gratification such a powerful motor of action. A prerequisite for experiencing social gratification is empathy with the general public. The following quote from one of the interviewees illustrates this: I bought my Prius knowing it cost more than a relatively equal non-hybrid car, but I did so as an act of social responsibility. In our study, social gratification derived from the use of an HEV was measured by the fact whether a person agreed or disagreed with the following two statements: Driving a hybrid feels good because it helps the environment and Driving a hybrid feels good because it contributes to the national energy conservation effort. Respondents were asked to rate these statements on a scale from 1 (I totally disagree) to 5 (I totally agree). Given the almost perfect internal consistency of the measures, they were then combined into an additive index. The more social gratification an individual feels can be derived from a certain action, the more likely this person is to execute it. We therefore 91

106 Social gratification: HEVs perceived as conveying very little... very high social gratification social gratification Total Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles Pearson s R = Standard error = N of valid cases = very high Total Table 6.7: Crosstabulation: Influence of perceived social gratification on interest in hybrid vehicle technology expect a significant difference between hybrid-owners and non-owners in the study regarding the extent of social gratification felt. We also expect interest in the technology to be higher among respondents who feel there is a lot of social gratification to be derived from driving a hybrid. The crosstabulation in Tab. 6.7 shows that the higher perceived social gratification from driving a hybrid, the higher the interest in hybrid technology. With a correlation of 0.291, the link between the two measures is relatively strong and our initial assumption can be regarded as confirmed. This calculation does not provide information about the differences between hybrid owners and drivers of conventional vehicles. If they diverged regarding the perceived extent of social gratification, we would have identified a driver of the purchase decision. It is therefore adequate to perform an analysis of variance (ANOVA) between the two groups. However, the ANOVA procedure does not generate significant results. Inside the committed group, the variance is necessarily quite small. It seems as if in the study, the social gratification derived from driving a hybrid is not perceived very differently by actual users and by non-users. It is possible that a comparison of our committed group with a representative control group would produce more significant results. Unfortunately, with the limited data 92

107 Acceptance by relevant social groups: HEVs perceived as having very little... very high acceptance acceptance Total Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles Pearson s R = Standard error = N of valid cases = very high Total Table 6.8: Crosstabulation: Influence of acceptance by relevant social groups on interest in hybrid vehicle technology set at hand, we cannot test this. Besides social gratification, the other important social dimension aspect influencing interest in hybrid technology is the level of acceptance by social groups relevant to a respondent. Because humans are, in essence, social animals, the opinions of those they esteem are of importance to them. Family and friends are the two most influential social groups against whose opinions and attitudes we measure our actions. Respondents were therefore asked to assess their families and their friends image of hybrid technology - did they think buying and driving a hybrid was a good decision? The two measures were combined in an additive index measuring acceptance by relevant others. The influence of this measure is less strong than the influence of social gratification. But with a correlation of over 0.2, it is still quite marked (see Tab. 6.8). The ANOVA procedure also shows that there are dissimilarities between hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners in this regard. Among the committed group in the study, the acceptance of hybrids by friends and family is perceived differently by users and by non-users. The F-ratio diverges significantly from 1 (see Tab. 6.9) and a Scheffé test showed that especially for the higher values of perceived acceptance, the two groups differ. Generally, hybrid owners report the reactions of friends and family to be more positive. 93

108 Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Significance Between Groups Within Groups Total Table 6.9: Variance in hybrid-owners and non-owners perception of acceptance by relevant social groups A possible reason is that they have experienced positive feedback in the real world, while non-owners can only speculate. It would be interesting to compare pre- and post-purchase perception of acceptance by the same person. Does little perceived social acceptance keep some people from buying a hybrid? Or is higher perceived acceptance a consequence of the purchase? We cannot conclude an answer from the available data, but it is an interesting question for further research. The analysis of the social dimension has demonstrated that the assumed correlations exist indeed between social gratification, social acceptance and interest in hybrid technology. But the social dimension does not seem to be a very strong trigger of the purchase decision. This could be the effect of low intra-group variation in the study. In a representative study, the social dimension would probably show more variance between owners and non-owners of a hybrid vehicle. Cultural visions Cultural visions of technology are also of interest. The term refers to the wide-spread and fixed expectations of what is desirable and feasible with regard to a specific technology. People have come to anticipate certain attributes from cars. Can hybrids fulfill these expectations? It is the prerequisite of success for this technology. Without it, only a limited number of people will be ready to buy a hybrid. And because HEVs are still not quite price-competitive, it is likely that they need additional attributes to overcome the price disadvantage. Do they have some added plus points that 94

109 make them attractive? We expect interest in hybrid technology to be higher for respondents who think that performance, safety and handling are similar in hybrids and in conventional vehicles. Indeed, the three measures are positively correlated with interest in the technology: Seeing hybrids as offering the same safety as conventional cars has the strongest influence, with a correlation of (Tab. 6.10(c)). It is followed by performance (R = 0.174, Tab. 6.10(b)) and handling (R = 0.168, Tab. 6.10(a)). Interviewees who think HEVs offer at least as much safety, performance and ease of handling as conventional cars show a higher interest in the technology. It is apparent that hybrids are compared to the status quo of vehicle technology. If they are found deficient, interest in the technology suffers. Hypotheses 5 is thus confirmed. The three measures were also tested for mean differences between the respondents who own a hybrid and those who do not. Although the means are generally a bit higher for hybrid-owners than for the rest of the respondents, none of the results from the ANOVA procedure was significant at the 0.05 level. Again, it is possible that the low intra-group variance is due to the selection bias of our study. But it is also possible that there is little variance in the general population, and thus also in our group. This would mean that cultural visions linked to the automobile are very stable. Even people who drive an alternative vehicle are not ready to give up attributes they consider indispensable. This could in part explain the failure of electric cars: Their performance is bad and they force users to change their behavior (lower range, necessity to plug car in etc.). Two additional questions concerned more subjective product attributes: design and innovative image. They relate to the desirability side of the cultural dimension and the image its use is ascribed. In the media, these two aspects have been extensively discussed (see for example Dell, 2005; Koerner, 2005) and it was interesting to see whether this is mirrored in the answers in the study. Indeed, both the interviewees who thought hybrids had a cool 95

110 Handling a hybrid is similar to handling a conventional car. totally totally disagree agree Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles very high Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (a) Handling The performance of a hybrid is as good as that of any conventional car. totally totally disagree agree Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles very high Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (b) Performance A hybrid is a safe as any conventional car on the market. totally totally disagree agree Interest none at all in hybrid vehicles very high Total Pearson s R = Standard error = (c) Safety Table 6.10: Crosstabulations: Expected vehicle attributes and their impact on interest in hybrid technology 96

111 design and who thought hybrids conveyed an innovative image displayed a higher interest in hybrid technology. With a Pearson s R of 0.284, the correlation with the interest in hybrids was quite strong for agreement to the statement Driving a hybrid means being open to innovations. Affirmative answers to the question whether hybrids had a stylish design were correlated with the Interest in hybrid technology variable at Especially the Toyota Prius has a devoted fan crowd and many people who drive it like its high-tech appeal. At the end of our survey, respondents had the opportunity to include some additional remarks. Although they have of course no representative value, these statements are quite revealing. One person gave being a technogeek as the main reason why he bought a hybrid, another one pointed to... the cool factor of driving the smartest car on the road. People can t believe the car unlocks for my hand only, and that I don t need to fumble with a key, let alone getting twice the miles per gallon they are getting. A third respondent - this time the owner of a Ford Escape - made it clear that the innovative technology was the major reason he bought a hybrid: Though I own a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid, Green reasons were not my primary motivation when purchasing. It was the technological innovations that made up my mind over a conventional Escape; It was the fact that I could get all the cutting edge technologies affordably that was a motivating factor, the environmental benefits were secondary. Fuel efficiency was a major plus [...], but concerns over greenhouse gas emissions were not among my top tier, and barely entered into my decision; though they are a nice bonus. All of this already indicates that the purchase of a hybrid is not totally dependent on objective factors such as price and model diversity. But the 97

112 Count Lower price ,9 More model diversity ,0 Tax incentives ,9 Other incentives 80 47,3 (HOV lanes, free parking) Better performance 56 33,1 More room for passengers 34 20,1 More room for baggage 29 17,2 N of valid cases = 169 % of cases Table 6.11: In your opinion, which of the following aspects could increase hybrid sales in the U.S.? (Multiple responses possible) latter remain important drivers of the purchase decision, which is why the economic dimension should not be left out. Economic dimension The last set of hypotheses concerns economic aspects. We postulated that increased price competitiveness and model diversity will facilitate diffusion. Economic theory holds that a lower price for the same quality (or the same price for higher quality) increases demand (Samuelson and Nordhaus, 1995). We also expect income to affect hybrid ownership. Measuring the price competitiveness of hybrids is beyond the scope of this study, but some measures can give an indication as to the influence of economic aspects on hybrid diffusion. For instance, an overwhelming majority of interviewees saw model diversity and price as the key factors for increasing hybrid sales (see Tab. 6.11). As to the influence of income on the propensity to buy a hybrid car, there is an impact, albeit not a strong one. The correlation measure for the two variables treated as ordinal here is γ = Another aspect affecting hybrids price competitiveness is the regional fuel price - the higher it is, the more it pays off to drive a hybrid. We would expect Californians to buy more hybrids than Alaskans, because fuel prices are considerably higher in 98

113 California. However, no correlation exists between regional fuel prices and hybrid-ownership. It is possible that fuel prices have not yet passed the critical threshold. The expectations about the development of fuel prices in the coming years did not have a significant effect either. Almost a third of the respondents in the study believe that fuel prices will rise between 0 and 20 cents per year (Fig. 6.2). Close to 20 % believe that fuel prices will rise more than 61 cent annually. An analysis of variance showed that whether a respondent owned a hybrid or not does not make a significant difference for their expectations about fuel price development. Apparently, among the committed group in our study, this is not what triggers a purchase decision. But a difference seems to exist between the committed and the uncommitted. In a study by industry experts J. D. Power and Associates (2004a), owners of an HEV were considerably more pessimistic than drivers of conventional cars: They expected gas prices to rise 6 % per year, as opposed to 2 % for owners of gasoline-powered vehicles. How are the high purchase price and the long payback period for hybrids perceived among a committed group? The aim of these questions was to get an insight into the economic rationality behind the purchase of a hybrid. Are (potential) owners conscious of the fact that buying a hybrid might not pay off? On average, a hybrid owner assumes that it takes 5.63 years for an HEV to pay off, the rest of the respondents are slightly less optimistic and think it takes 5.9 years. Given that the typical time until a car is resold is 5 years, most of the respondents seem to think that hybrids are close to being price-competitive. However, not included in the calculation of the mean were answers like don t know, never or depends. The question was asked in an open form to avoid biasing the answers by limiting the answer choices. Consequently, the well-known problems associated with open questions appear: the difficulty to interpret and group answers and the higher propensity for missing 99

114 Figure 6.2: Estimated change of fuel prices cases. Overall, a sixth of the respondents felt they could not answer the question. And it is likely that some of those who answered guessed. Kurani and Turrentine (2004) conclude from a qualitative study that most people have difficulties assessing the trade-off between higher purchase price and better fuel economy. There are signs of this phenomenon in our survey, too. In calculating fuel cost savings, the point of comparison is often the cost of fuel for the former car. Thus, the amount of money households feel they save by driving a hybrid really depends on what car they traded in for it. Consider this quote from the comment box at the end of the survey: Our primary vehicle was an SUV. We filled up approximately once a week, on average for $ 40 - $ 52 per tank. The hybrid has replaced the SUV as the primary vehicle and we fill up every other week for $ 12 - $ 15 per tank full. You do the math. The hybrid is not the answer to energy independence but a step in the 100

115 right direction and I don t mind saving money while taking that step. It is evident that the interviewee in question would have come to a different conclusion had he owned a smaller car before. The point of comparison is indeed of importance: If potential buyers compare a hybrid s price not to other cars they are interested in, but to their old car, the calculation looks quite different. It is beyond the scope of this thesis to explore this topic more thoroughly. But we should keep in mind that findings like this cast a shadow of doubt on the assumption that economic agents are completely rational. The calculation of the payback-period is related to the willingness to pay a higher price for hybrids. Among respondents who did not own a hybrid yet, 42.1 % were ready to pay a purchase premium of more than 2000 $ for a hybrid, i.e. the actual price premium. Among hybrid-owners, the willingness to pay the real world price differential was of course much higher: 72 % would pay more than 2000 $ for a hybrid. Nevertheless, when comparing these numbers, we have to consider that it is a post-purchase measure for the owners, while it is a pre-purchase measure for those who do not own a hybrid. Owners are likely to be better informed about the actual price and there might also be an element of justifying their decision included in the measure. The univariate, bivariate and multivariate results from the empirical study show that what common sense tells us about hybrid owners is not always true. They are not driven by economic rationality alone. The results from the political dimension prove that the public discourse about a green technology s problem solving capacity is decisive for its acceptance. The missing link between green attitudes and green behavior (here: the use of hybrid technology) is assigned problem solving capacity. As to social aspects, we can see that the attribution of a positive social meaning is important. Both political and social aspects demonstrate that early hybrid adopters do not buy these cars because they get such good value for their money, but out of 101

116 conviction. Still, cultural visions of cars are very stable and if green cars do not bow to these expectations, they have little chance to succeed. With hybrids, manufacturers have offered the utmost they thought costumers would accept: An ICE vehicle with a green tinge. They have ventured from the technical path defined a century ago, but not very far. Compared to hybrids, electrical vehicles were already too far removed from the accepted vision of a car. Our findings help refine the selection dimensions used to explain technical regime change. Not only have political aspects been largely neglected in the study of technical regimes, but the impact of social and cultural matters has been underestimated. Focusing too one-sidedly on technological and economic matters results in a skewed image of technology competition. In contrast, examining social routines, cultural visions and the political climate renders a more accurate picture of the dynamic selection process. Our contribution to the literature on socio-technical regimes is a stronger focus on non-economic factors that are socially and not technically determined. By applying this approach to the study of an innovation in competition with a firmly established technology, we can draw conclusions on how established socio-technical regimes can be transformed. In addition, our analysis renders insights into the adaptive processes new technologies undergo in order to conform to existing socio-technical regimes. Thus, we hope to create a body of knowledge useful to policymakers An exploratory model of political, social and cultural factors influence on hybrid technology diffusion The statistical calculations described above have demonstrated the role of non-economic aspects for the interest in hybrid technology. What is their influence in actual car purchase behavior? In the literature, car purchase 102

117 Figure 6.3: Initial model of hybrid-ownership behavior is usually ascribed to effects of price and product attributes. A good overview of current models of car ownership can be found in de Jong et al. (2002). Vehicle type choice models usually include aspects like prize, size, vehicle class, fuel consumption, equipment, safety and quality scores. Rarely included are lifestyles, social practices related to car use and visions of the car as a social and cultural object. McEwen (2004) suggests that the way purchase behavior is commonly measured leads to the assumption that brand relationships are determined by price and quality alone. But in reality, purchase behavior is not only rationally driven by economic factors, but it also has psychological and social roots. The influence of the social world on ecological consumption decisions is at the heart of our research. In the following section, we introduce an exploratory model of political, social and cultural factors influence on hybrid-ownership. To this end, we build a regression model containing the dimensions described above as covariates. Because our dependent variable, hybrid-ownership, is dichotomous, we employ a binary logistic regression. The initial model depicted in Fig. 6.3 is deduced from the theoretical reflections described in Chapter 4. Besides economic factors, social, cultural 103

118 Figure 6.4: Revised model of hybrid-ownership and political selection environments determine the decision for or against ecological technologies. The model mirrors the assumption that the cultural dimension is the prerequisite and the only dimension with a direct effect on hybrid ownership. The other dimensions are mediated by it. Although it is likely that the model has some explanatory value if used on HEV-owners and a representative control group, a test-run showed that the intra-group variance in our study is too low to employ it. From the ANOVA results we know that the committed group in our survey does not show variance between owners and non-owners with regard to all tested independent factors. Thus, our initial model is not applicable to the data at hand. Through a variety of simple regressions, the factors were tested and the ones with low significance were excluded. This was done in order to obtain a model of what triggers the decision for or against an ecological technology among a group with a high interest in it. The revised model can be seen in Fig The remaining factors with 104

119 explanatory value were the three variables measuring the cultural dimension (equal performance, safety and handling), the problem solving variables from the political dimension, and income and regional fuel price as economic factors. As none of the measures from the social dimension resulted in a significant outcome, they were excluded. The measures from the political and cultural dimension are internally consistent and were combined into additive indices, respectively named P 4 and C 5. The economic variables were treated separately: Income refers to the influence the amount of money available has on the purchase decision, Fuel price refers to the influence of cost. Hybrid ownership was calculated as follows: O = O = O = c = C = I = F = P = αc + βi + γc + δc F + ηf P + λc F P c + ( 0.213)I + ( 1.377)C C F +( 0.573)F P C F P HEV-Ownership Constant HEVs perceived as being equal to conventional cars (Cultural Dimension) Income (Economic Dimension) Fuel Price (Economic Dimension) Problem solving (Political Dimension) The model provides asymptotic 95 % confidence intervals for parameters α, γ, η and λ. The influence of income and the cultural dimension is negative and the combined effect of fuel prices and problem solving, too. This is contrary to the assumptions deduced from the theoretical reflections. A possible explanation is the leptokurtic and skewed distribution of the data. Only two measures are positively correlated with hybrid-ownership: fuel prices medi- 4 P - Problem solving: Additive index of v15a (Solution to energy dependence), v15b (Solution to air pollution), v15c (Solution to climate change) 5 CV - Cultural visions: Additive index of v9a (Handling), v9e (Performance), v9h (Safety) 105

120 ated by the cultural dimension (C*F) and the interaction of all co-variates (C*F*P*S). The proportion of variation in the dependent variable explained by this model is 15.3 % (Nagelkerke R square = 0.153). The force of prediction is not very strong. In general, the model is quite instable: The addition of other variables results in large changes of the Beta values in the regression. The model can thus at best be called exploratory. Because of its instability, it cannot be deduced that it refutes the theoretical approach, even if it is inconsistent with it in some points. Rather, the inconsistency between theory and empirical data is the consequence of an inadequate data set and probably also ill-adapted measures. The application of the regression model to the group in our study probably results in a systematic underestimation of R square. This effect is due to the low intra-group variance: The respondents in our study who do not own a hybrid vehicle are still highly interested in the technology. It is likely that the explanatory force would be stronger, if the model was used to compare hybrid-owners with a group representative of the general population. In addition, the measures used have to be refined to obtain better validity and reliability of the data. The measures used here apparently cannot capture the dynamic interaction between different dimensions of technical regime change. Further research is much needed to refine the model. Testing a model of social, cultural and political aspects influence on hybrid-ownership for significance on a representative cross-section of the population could yield indications as to how early adopters of green technologies diverge from the mass market. If we know which attitudes trigger the decision for a green technology, we can deduce measures to help build these attitudes. Our empirical results are not representative, but they give indications as to the usefulness of certain measures. Before we turn to the tentative conclusions on policy implications, some additional findings shall be presented. 106

121 6.2.3 Additional results The following section contains result not employed in the testing of the hypotheses, which are nonetheless revealing of the characteristics of hybrid owners and people interested in the technology. Opinions about policy measures and the future success of hybrids One question inquired about what could help increase hybrid sales in the US. The respondents could check multiple answers. As shown in Fig. 6.5, the hierarchy of answers is the same for hybrid-owners and non-hybrid-owners: Both groups are convinced that a lower price and more model diversity will help most to increase hybrid sales. The following comment from one of the respondents summarizes these attitudes quite well: Hybrids are a great idea but need to be made cheaper and available in more sizes, I currently drive a light car and would have bought a hybrid if one existed in this category with 4 seats, none currently do. In general, hybrid-owners are more opinionated about aspects that affect hybrids attractiveness as a whole: price, model diversity, taxes and other incentives. Interestingly, performance, storage and passenger space are seen as less of a problem by hybrid owners. This might be caused by their own good experience driving a hybrid or by their smaller disposition to attach importance to these aspects. After all, they would probably not have bought a gas-electric car, if they had thought it was too small and too feeble for their needs. The respondents attitudes towards policies concerning hybrids were also examined. Interviewees were asked to indicate whether they supported or opposed several policy measures (Fig. 6.6). The support for tax credits for hybrid vehicles is very wide-spread, both people who already drive hybrids and those who do not were overwhelmingly (85.7 and 79.2 %, respectively) in 107

122 Figure 6.5: What could increase hybrid sales in the US? favor of financial incentives to buy hybrids. For possessors of a gas-electric car, this category is the most strongly supported policy measure, followed closely by tighter emission (81 %) and fuel consumption (82.9 %) control. The role tax credits played for their own purchase decision might influence the answer here. The rest of the people in the study favor higher emission (83.3 % in support) and fuel efficiency standards (93.1 % in support) over tax credits. In contrast to the widespread support for tighter standards, higher fuel taxes are only backed by roughly half of the respondents in both groups. Travel behavior The travel behavior of hybrid owners is also of interest: Are hybrids chosen by people who cover a comparatively long distance per year because they can thus save on fuel? On average, a respondent of the study travels 15,762 miles annually by car. This is much less than the average American, who 108

123 Figure 6.6: Support for policy measures drives miles per year (FHWA, 2003). Common sense tells us that it should be the other way around - after all, driving a hybrid only makes economic sense for above average distances driven. Otherwise the payback period is too long to redeem the higher purchase price. The surprising result is circumstantial evidence that for these early adaptors, price cannot be the one and only driver for buying a hybrid. Hybrid-owners in the study were asked to compare their travel behavior to that of the average driver (see Tab. 6.12). The data is evenly distributed, 39 % think they drive as much as the average person, while 33.3 % think they drive more and 26.7 % think they drive less. Their self-assessment is quite accurate - the distances stated are very highly correlated with the perception of how much a person traveled in comparison to other drivers (γ = 0.860). The even distribution means that we cannot draw the conclusion that hybrids are bought only by people who drive a lot. 109

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