By Joseph Tohill
The automobile has a significance that goes beyond its utilitarian function as a method of personal transportation. It also forms an integral part of an individual’s identity and reflects one’s lifestyle choices, social status, and personal values. Identity and personal values have often become so intertwined with the purchase of an automobile that they have resulted in the emergence of various subcultures based on motor vehicle ownership – one might think of the “motorcycle subculture” and its associated lifestyle, accessories, and attire.
As environmental values continue to proliferate in society and people increasingly identify as “eco-conscious” individuals, we are beginning to see the emergence of a new motor vehicle culture: the EV subculture. And as with any cultural system, the EV subculture presents commercial enterprises with a unique opportunity to identify with a particular segment of the population and foster customer loyalty by exhibiting values that resonate with that particular demographic.
Before looking at ways to capitalize on EV ownership, businesses should first understand the primary underpinnings of the emerging EV sub-culture.
The Profile of an EV Owner
First of all, an individual who buys an EV often has a particular way of viewing the world around them.
The act of purchasing an EV reveals that they are conscious of the environmental consequences associated with petroleum-based personal transportation. This is a global issue with global ramifications. However, they have chosen to contribute to the sustainability of the global environment by making a very localizeddecision. That is, driving around in an EV is one way an individual can interact with their local environment without adversely affecting the global environment.
This local/global perspective permeates other aspects of their life as well, from lifestyle choices to purchasing decisions. Furthermore, they are more inclined to support retailers in their local environment that have a solid reputation in sustainability.
Tapping Into the EV Subculture
Retailers can tap into the emerging EV subculture by developing a built environment conducive to the needs of EV owners.
For instance, one of the biggest worries of an EV owner is whether their car has enough juice to travel to a particular location – often referred to as “range anxiety”. Finding a suitable place to charge on the road can be a difficult task, and when an EV driver does find one, charging their battery takes time.
A retailer that offers EV charging stations in their parking lots gives EV owners the opportunity to charge their vehicle while carrying out necessary shopping activities. It makes the customer’s trip more convenient, more efficient, and solidifies a positive consumer experience.
But perhaps even more important than its practical application, an EV charging station adds a tangible “green” dimension to the corporate brand. Eco-minded consumers are increasingly sceptical of unproven corporate claims of sustainability and are privy to green-washing attempts. An EV charging station is not merely an image of sustainability; it is a fully functional device that supports carbon neutral activities. More implicitly, it taps into the psychology of EV owners by providing them with a local outlet to tackle global environmental issues.
I have already discussed how members of the EV subculture are more likely to support a company with a solid reputation in sustainability. Well, adding a green dimension to the corporate brand through the installation of an EV charging station is one way they can build on their green reputation in a very real way.
Tapping into the EV culture allows a retailer to gain an advantage over competitors and establish a green reputation early in the EV market. Providing a shopping experience conducive to EV ownership is a strategic way a company can build up its corporate brand and ensure the longevity of its customer base both now and into the future.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.