A feeling for change: exploring the lived and unlived experiences of drivers to inform a transition to an electric automobility

Jonathan Edward Kershaw, N Berkeley, David Jarvis, Jason Begley

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper assesses the contemporary ‘consumption’ of the motor-car in the context of an increased uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) as part of a transition to a low carbon automobility. Through the lens of affect and non-representationaltheory, it contributes to a seemingly neglected discourse by understanding how the feelings, experiences and knowledges of drivers ’conditioned’ to an internal combustion engine (ICE) ecosystem might impact such a transition. This contribution is important, given that the contemporary socio-cultural significance of the car means an effectiveimpetus for social change will come from drivers themselves. In-depth interviews explored unlived knowledges and opinions on EVs held by motorists driving ICE vehicles, comparing these with the lived experiences of EV drivers. Key findings point to levers and potential barriers. First, EV exposure suggests prospective electric propulsion carries no further fears than those experienced on any first 'encounter' with a vehicle, indicating that although different, it is not viewed as a leap into the unknown. Second, ICE-drivers don’t regard electric cars as inferior, providing they embody an ICE car's essence of freedom, flexibility and performance. Third, EV-drivers’ sensations of avant garde and environmental-friendliness lack the physical nature of feelings expressed by ICE-drivers, yet suggest a new automobility. Addressing this ‘affectual’ divide in how manufacturers design and disseminate knowledge about EVs is crucial to broadening their appeal. More broadly, whilst technical barriers to transition endure for consumers, the feelings and experiences concomitant with existing automobilities suggest cause for optimism regarding a potential low carbon vehicle uptake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-686
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research, Part D: Transport and Environment
Early online date24 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Transportation Research, Part D: Transport and Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Transportation Research, Part D: Transport and Environment, vol. 65, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2018.10.011

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Low carbon automobility
  • Electric cars
  • Affect Non-representational theory
  • Knowledge and opinions


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