In countries like Norway, electric cars are expensive and this means that families often have the budget for just one car, says Sovacool, whose research shows that men use cars more than women and are less likely to use public transport.
In countries like the United States, women may be more likely to have range anxiety, suggests Philipp Kampshoff, who heads McKinsey’s Center for Future Mobility in America. “This anxiety about, ‘Am I going to be somewhere, lost, with no charger nearby?’ could be more frightening,” he says.
Joan Hollins just bought her first electric vehicle this month, a Hyundai Kona EV in a sparkling green-gray. She loves it — and loves that her grandchildren love it, especially the 10-year-old who is “really into alternative energy.” But when she started researching electric vehicles on the Internet, she quickly noticed a kind of toxicity in online communities, which tend to be male-dominated — negative comments, arguments, people who seemed to be anti-EV. “The Facebook forums are cruel,” she says. Perhaps these predominantly male spaces, she wonders, are scaring away some potential buyers.
But in China, automakers are marketing to women by giving them more options to customize their vehicles — in ways that might not appeal to consumers in the U.S. or Europe. In May 2022, Great Wall Motors was released Ora, a pastel-colored EV in the shape of a VW Beetle, which includes an LED makeup mirror, a “Lady Driving Mode” with a voice-activated parking system, and a “Warm mode,” designed to soothe drivers suffering from menstrual cramps. Another Chinese brand, Wuling, markets its mini EV for women, offering the model in a range of “macaroon” colors and letting buyers add custom wheels or decorate the exterior of the car with cartoon stickers.
“The male population likes to talk about the hardware. The female population likes to tailor the experience or tailor it to their lifestyle,” said Bill Russo, former head of automaker Chrysler’s Northeast Asia business in Beijing, who now runs Shanghai-based consultancy Automobility . “So doing things like adding stickers or making it my own means more to that type of audience; you’re looking for brands that fit that, like Ora.”
Even as automakers begin to reach out more to women, S&P’s Bland believes it’s important to recognize which groups of women are early adopters. His research shows that in the US, African-American and Hispanic women buy more EVs than African-American and Hispanic men, while Asian women are on par with Asian men.
“The data shows that you’re starting to see a trend of all-black advertising, all-Hispanic advertising, where before there was more of a general kind of push,” he says. “I would think that the electrical industry should look at and cater more to the women who are a bit earlier adopters than the more hesitant men,” he says.
For Hollins, the new Hyundai EV owner, it wasn’t a particular ad or marketing strategy that sealed the deal. It was another woman who passed near Hollins’ western Colorado town with her small dog in her own electric Hyundai, one in the “most beautiful blue color.” They got to talking; she was Hollin’s age and on a cross-country trip. “I didn’t know about charging stations. I didn’t know you could get from A to B in an electric car,” says Hollins. But seeing someone she could relate to driving electric made it all feel much more accessible.