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Barriers to Accelerating Adoption of Electric Road Transportation

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ABSTRACT: The use of PEV’s (Plugin Electric Vehicles) as a form of environmentally friendly, none petrol dependant source of road transportation has attracted large amounts of interest in recent years with trials and studies being undertaken around the world. However, the adoption of PEV by the motoring public has continued to fall short of the predicted sales figures. To better understand why people are unwilling to adopt PEV’s this papers examines those concerns raised both by individual motorists (range anxiety, vehicle charge time, and economic efficiency) as well as barriers restricting investment at the wider level (public charging infrastructure). A multi objective analysis of these concerns reveals that the adoption of electric road transportation cannot be accelerated until sufficient public infrastructure has been installed to ease range anxiety and charge time concerns amongst the community. However, given current charge station technology and PEV usage volumes, the installation and operation of this critical infrastructure remains unprofitable.



In a world faced with both rising populations and

diminishing resources we are faced with the necessity of constantly improving and adapting to insure that dwindling supply can continue to meet increasing demand (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435; World Resources Institute 1994). The United Nations report that population growth is projected to reach 2 billion people over the next two decades (World Resources Institute 1994). At the same time the emerging threat of climate change and an increased awareness of the fragile nature of our surrounding environment is forcing both industry and consumers to rethink their stance on existing products and procedures (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 44; Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373).


For the transport industry, this change represents a shift away from the oil dependant internal combustion engine towards more environmentally friendly AFV’s (Alternate Fuel Vehicles) (Yang et al. 2013, p. 245). This deliberate shift away from oil dependency has encouraged research in a range alternative transport models including hydrogen, hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1). In recent years, of the multiple types of AFV being developed, the PEV (Plug in Electric Vehicle) has continued to gain increasingly wide spread public support (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435).


The idea behind the PEV is for a pure electric vehicle that can be charged directly from the grid, either from the comfort of the owner’s home/office or from a publicly available recharge point (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1). In surveys community acceptance for PEV’s has been shown to be high with some models projecting PEV ownership rates in the U.S. to reach 62% by 2050 (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1). Unfortunately, recorded purchases of PEV’s by the general public has thus far fallen well short of the predicted adoption rates (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373).


This study aims to identify the key areas of concern that are reducing the speed at which the public is willing to adopt the PEV technology. It can be hoped that once these barriers have been identified and understood, that a way forward may be found.




The success of any AFV relies upon convincing a sufficient number of individuals to spend their money to purchase the AFV (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373). While some

issues with regard to the acceptance of PEV’s have already been addressed, like the installation of artificial sounds to warn vision impaired pedestrians that an electric vehicle is nearby, other issues remain (Emerson et al. 2013, p.55). By surveying members of the general public, researchers have identified several current areas of concern that are actively and negatively effecting people’s decision to purchase a PEV. These areas of concern include purchase and running costs, the time required to charge a vehicle, the availability of charging infrastructure and the limited range of electric vehicles (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 4; Yang et al. 2013, p. 246).


To better understand these concerns, this report has broken the individual concerns into three areas. Range anxiety, vehicle charge time and the economic efficiency of purchasing and running a PEV.


  • Range Anxiety

Unlike a conventional petrol driven vehicle that can


easily have a driving range of 500km or more, most electric vehicles have a maximium range of around 120km to 140km (with some as low as 60km) (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435). Many motorists feel that this range is insufficient to allow them to freely drive where they wish and will restrict their mobility or even leave them stranded on the side of the road with no fuel (or electricity) (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1-3; Yang et al. 2013, p. 246). This fear is heightened during cold weather or night driving as both of these will reduce the vehicles available range. While it is true that the reduced effectiveness of batteries in cold weather and the added strain that heating and cooling effects petrol vehicles as well as their electric counterparts, the reduced maximum range of the electric vehicle allows less margin for error when it comes to calculating the remaining distance before recharge (Madison Gas and Electric 2015).


The recognised method for combating range anxiety is the installation of publicly accessible charging infrastructure (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435). This infrastructure would allow drivers who were nearing the end of their vehicle’s range to pull over and top up their batteries in a similar manner to a petrol car filling up at the petrol station after a long drive (provided that these charging points are both easily accessible and sufficiently numerous) (Li et al. 2015 (a), p. 2630).


Barriers to Accelerating Adoption of Electric Road Transportation                                    


CVE80003 – Transport Planning, Modelling and Economics


2.2 Vehicle Charge Time


Another major concern held by individuals considering the purchase of a PEV is the time required to charge the vehicle’s battery after each trip (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 371). This time is influenced by a number of factors including the vehicle’s maximum capacity and current SOC (State Of Charge) and most importantly the power output of the charging station (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 4; Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p. 3436). While domestic home chargers (with power outputs of around the 1.8kW mark) will require up to eight to ten hours to charge a PEV, more powerful models (up to 60kW) can achieve an 80% charge in as little as 15 minutes (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3436).


To understand the concerns that this rapid charge model has raised, an understanding of batteries is required (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1). As a battery is charged and discharged internal efficiency is lost. This lose causes a drop in the battery’s maximum capacity that will eventually require replacement (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 3). Studies have proven that the faster the battery is charged the more damage is done to the battery, with research showing that to charge a battery 3 times faster reduces that battery’s life by 77% (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 4). It should also be noted that increasing the output of a charging station disproportionately increases the cost of that charging station (Tang et al. 2013, p. 2840). For this reason, during a recent attempt by the British Government to install a network of PEV charging infrastructure into North East England (the Plugged in Places or PIP scheme), only 12 out of over 1,100 station are designed for rapid charge with the bulk of the network made up out of the cheaper, lower output variety (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 366).


An attempt to reduce vehicle charge time was made during the Beijing Olympics with an electric bus fleet. Instead of charging the fleet, a battery swap system was established so that spent batteries could be removed and sent away to be charged slowly while fresh batteries took their place in the busses. The post-Olympic review revealed the battery swap method as too costly for wider use as the system depended upon maintaining a large stockpile of very expensive batteries (Tang et al. 2013, p. 2836). Further research into potential use of a battery swap system reported that an average battery swap for a PEV would still take around a quarter of an hour as the (very expensive) batteries within a PEV are not designed to be easily removed (Li et al. 2015 (a), p. 2631).


2.3 Economic Efficiency

Studies have shown that people are motivated more by financial benefit than they are by environmental benefit (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 29). With a high initial purchase cost and the prospect of having to pay for regular battery replacement, it is difficult to convince people to invest in a PEV (Tang et al. 2013, p. 2836).

In one attempt to reduce the ongoing cost and thereby encourage more people to purchase an electric vehicle the British Government, as part of their Plugged in Places scheme, offered free electricity and free parking to motorists who drove a PEV during a three-year trial. Following the completion of the trial, the participants were survey with a majority revealing that while they had enjoyed having free reserved parking and free fuel (electricity) the financial saving was not enough to offset

the increased cost of purchasing the PEV. The difference was insufficient effect their decision making when it came to deciding whether or not they wished to own an electric car. (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 371)



While many of the barriers that restrict ownership of PEV’s are individual concerns based upon individual circumstance (range anxiety only effects people who wish to travel long distances) there are some concerns that must be tackled on a wider level (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1). These concerns included such things as the proper integration of public infrastructure and the effect that wide scale adoption of PEV’s would have upon the stability of our established power networks (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 1; Li et al. 2015 (a), p. 2630).


3.1 Public Charging Infrastructure

The availability of public charging infrastructure is the most critical element in establishing an electric vehicle network (Li et al. 2015 (a), p. 2630; Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p. 3435). Saturating a target area with sufficiently high levels of public charging infrastructure can relieve both range anxiety and concerns regarding vehicle charge time (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p. 3436). The downside to such an approach would be the ruinous economic cost associated with the installation and maintenance of so many charging stations (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373). Creating a proper balance between customer convenience and economic efficiency is difficult and a great many researchers have attempted to identify an optimisation method that supports both of these goals (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 371).

Again we return to the Plugged in Places scheme in north east England. Through the use of subsidising grants, the British Government encouraged members of the community to install both domestic home charging stations and larger, more capable publicly accessible stations. By the end of the three-year scheme 1,138 charging stations were installed. This figure including 12 rapid chargers, 312 chargers in corporate parking spaces and 401 domestic chargers in residential homes. During the bulk of the trial PEV owners reported no difficulty in finding a vacant charger and very little issues of range anxiety. However, towards the end of the trial, as PEV ownership neared 400, the surveyors began to receive reports that drivers were beginning to experience difficulty in finding a vacant charger. This congestion was occurring when public recharging assets outnumbered the vehicle fleet almost two to one (or three to one if the domestic chargers are included in these considerations). Perhaps of even greater interest is the statement that since the government subsidies for the operators of charging infrastructure finished at the end of the trial, no sustainable business model for the operation of these charging stations has been found (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373). Even the most powerful charging station installed during the scheme (50kW, DC powered, 80% charge in 30 minutes) operating at continuous peak performance can still only recharge less than a 50 vehicles a day with the middle to low range models supporting even less (three to five vehicles) (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3436). Given this low turnover rate it is felt by most operators that it is unrealistic to expect the users to be willing to pay for the cost of the charging infrastructure. A decision that has left


Barriers to the Accelerated Adoption of Electric Vehicles                                                        


CVE80003 – Transport Planning, Modelling and Economics


the operator of the most critical element in the PEV network to shoulder the cost of this essential infrastructure (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 365).


  • Electrical Grid Destabilisation

The introduction of the PEV connects two, originally

isolated, infrastructure networks (road transportation and electrical supply) (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 1). The possible effects that PEV’s may have upon the established electricity grid differs widely based upon methods of introduction and total numbers of the PEV’s in use (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1). Predictions vary from complete grid failure should unregulated PEV ownership ever capture a 50% market share in the U.S. to an overall net stabilising effect should the power companies be allowed to draw upon the stored battery power of those PEV’s that have been left to charge (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 6; Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1).

The potential for PEV’s in sufficient numbers to damage the electricity grid is very real. When the grid voltage drops by around 10%, appliances like air conditioners begin to stall and automatically attempt to draw extra power to counter the voltage sag, which makes the problem worse. To protect the expensive electronics of a PEV from a voltage sag, the charging stations are designed to disconnect from the grid until the voltage has stabilised. This means that when the power utility company increases power output to counter the voltage sag, there will be less of a power draw than anticipated. If the power company does not have accurate estimates of how many PEV’s are charging within an area, this difference between expected and actual power demand can create a voltage surge capable of damaging the utility’s infrastructure (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 3).

In addition to this, research warns us that peak charging times for PEV’s coincide with peak power usage in the rest of the grid (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1). This means that should PEV ownership become too prevalent (50% market share in the U.S.) the power grid may simply not have sufficient capacity to meet the demand (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 6).

To help regulate the demand for power and thereby mitigate the destabilising effects of PEV’s, a system known as UCC (Utility Controlled Charging) has been suggested. UCC is system where by an external party exercises control over when, and how quickly each PEV is charged (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 29). The most obvious advantage of this system is valley filling, the ability to defer charging until night time when power use is less and electricity is cheaper, thereby reducing both stress to the power grid and fuel costs to the motorists (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1).

More extreme versions of UCC have the third party assign priorities to different vehicles to try and achieve the most efficient use of the available power by charging different vehicles first. Several methods for assigning priorities to which vehicles will be charged first have been suggested that consider factors such as the vehicle’s state of charge and time until unplug (Kelly et al. 2015, p. 4).

Even more extreme again is the UCC scheme known as V2G (Vehicle To Grid) where by the power company attempts to counter the effects of voltage sag and rapid voltage fluctuation by drawing upon the stored capacity of those nearby PEV’s that are currently connected to the grid.

It has been calculated that this would not only have a positive stabilising effect upon the power grid but the price discrepancy between the nocturnal valley charging and the battery drawdown during peak usage would actually generate a positive income stream to help support the ongoing cost of using a PEV (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 1).

Perhaps the most unusual form of UCC is the green energy initiative. Simply put this initiative aims to offset the destabilising effect of the erratic power supply provided by most green energy sources (solar generates that come and go as clouds pass by, direct runoff turbines that only spin when it’s raining and/or small scale wind farms that only generate power when the wind blows). By coupling this erratic power source with an erratic power demand, PEV’s would be charged only when one of the designated power sources began to generate power and would stop when the source ceased to provide (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 30).


The problem with using UCC as a solution for grid stability is user acceptance (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 31). A group of potential PEV owners were surveyed to gain their response to a series of different UCC system with varying levels of monetary compensation. The survey found that 24% of those surveyed saw any UCC as an invasion of privacy and 34% reported uneasiness regarding a feeling of loss of control. Never the less 68% of those surveyed agreed that UCC was something that the government should, to some extent, make compulsory. In all cases however, the underlying concern of PEV owners was the ‘guaranteed minimum charge’ (the lowest volume at which the UCC policy will take effect) with scenarios with higher guaranteed minimum charges receiving greater support (and requiring lower monetary incentives) than the scenarios that offered a lower guaranteed minimum charge (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 36). The issue is that the higher the minimum guaranteed charge, the less benefit the UCC will provide to the power grid (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 37).




While many of the barriers to the accelerated adoption of electric road transportation can be easily solved in isolation, attempting to optimise a solution to address all of these concerns is more difficult (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1). Range anxiety can be eased by the installation of public rapid charging stations but at the cost of reduced battery life for the PEV (from the rapid charge) and the economic cost of installation and maintenance to the providers of the infrastructure (Li et al. 2015 (b), p. 4; (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435). Likewise, UCC and V2G schemes will reduce running costs and promote a greener, more sustainable, electrical usage pattern while also helping to strengthen the resilience of our electricity grid. But UCC provides these benefits at the cost of user acceptance and satisfaction (Bailey & Axsen 2015, p. 31). As such any scheme to promote the adoption of electric road transportation must be weighed against all its potential outcomes (Sweda & Klabjan 2014, p. 1).


To conclude, many of the barriers that restrain the individual from purchasing a PEV (range anxiety and charging concerns) can be soothed by the installation of sufficient supporting infrastructure (Yi & Kandukuri 2012, p.3435). However, given current PEV adoption rates there


Barriers to the Accelerated Adoption of Electric Vehicles                                                        


CVE80003 – Transport Planning, Modelling and Economics


is an insufficient market to allow the construction of this infrastructure to be profitable (Wardle et al. 2014, p. 373). Unless there are more charging points, people will be hesitant about purchasing a PEV, and until more people purchase PEV’s organisations will be hesitant to invest in the supporting infrastructure (Yang et al. 2013, p. 246).




  1. Bailey, J & Axsen, J 2015, ‘Anticipating PEV buyers’ acceptance of utility controlled charging’,


Transport Research Part A: Policy and Practice, vol. 82, no. 1, pp. 29-46.


  1. Kelly, J, Ersal, T, Li, C, Marshall, B, Kundu, S, Keoleian, G, Peng, H, Hiskens, I & Stein, J 2015, ‘Sustainability, Resiliency, and Grid Stability of the Coupled Electricity and Transportation Infrastructures: Case for an Integrated Analysis’,


Journal of Infrastructure Systems, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 1-11.


  1. Li, J, Tang, Y & Zhou, L 2015 (a), ‘Electric Vehicle Charging Station Location Problem Research’, Fifth International Conference on Transport Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Dailan, China, September 26 – September 27, 2015, pp. 2630-2637.
  1. Li, Z, Jiang, Y, Zhang, X & Tian, W 2015 (b), ‘Market-Based Optimal Control of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Fleets and Economic Analysis’, Journal of Energy Engineering, just released and awaiting inclusion in a forthcoming volume for physical publication.
  1. Madison Gas and Electric 2015, Cold weather and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), leaflet.
  1. Sweda, T & Klabjan, D 2014, ‘Agent-Based Information System for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Deployment’, Journal of Infrastructure Systems, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 1-13.
  1. Tang, X, Li, J & Yu, H 2013, ‘Charging Strategy Optimization for Plug-In Pure Electric Vehicle Based on Generalized Cost’, Fourth International Conference on Transport Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Chengdu, China, October 19 - October 20, 2013, pp. 2836-2841.
  1. Wall Emerson, R, Kim, D, Naghshineh, K, Pliskow, J & Myers, K 2013, ‘Detection of Quiet Vehicles by Blind Pedestrians’, Journal of Transport Engineering, vol. 139, no. 1, pp. 50-56.
  1. Wardle, J, Hübner, Y, Blythe, P & Gibbon, J 2014, ‘The Provision of Public Recharging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles in North East England - is there Life after Subsidies?’,

International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure 2014, American Society of Civil Engineers, Long Beach, California, United States, November 6 – November 8, 2014, pp. 365-376.

  1. World Resources Institute 1994, World Resources 1994-95- A Guide to the Global Environment.

Washington, America: World Resources Institute.

  1. Yang, J, Miwa, T, Morikawa, T & Yamamoto, T 2013, ‘Forecasting the Demand of Electric Vehicle Ownership and Usage in the Chukyo Region in Japan’, Fourth International Conference on Transport Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Chengdu, China, October 19 - October 20, 2013, pp. 245-251.
  1. Yi, P & Kandukuri, Y 2012, ‘Optimum Location Identification of Plug-In Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Based on Graphic Weighting’,

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