A new study from Dr Kenan Degirmenci at Queensland University Business School shows environmental performance - or "being green" – is considered more important than price for owners of electric cars.
"High purchase costs and short driving ranges have been considered to be the main factors which impede people's decision to buy electric vehicles," Dr Degirmenci said. "Since electricity needs to be produced from renewable energy sources for electric vehicles to be a true green alternative, the environmental performance has also been presumed to be a factor."
In Dr Degirmenci's recently published study, Consumer purchase intentions for electric vehicles: Is green more important than price and range? involved interviews with 40 consumers and a survey with 167 people - who participated in test drives with plug-in battery electric vehicles in Germany.
Dr Degirmenci said the results of the study were relevant to Australia because the transport sector accounted for 16 per cent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions and 85 per cent of these were generated by road transport.
"We found the majority of participants placed great emphasis on the need for electricity for electric vehicles to be produced from renewable energy sources in order for them to be a true alternative," Dr Degirmenci said.
Dr Degirmenci said when considering greenhouse gas emissions it was important to acknowledge the difference between on-road emissions only taking into account the fuel used, and well-to-wheel emissions including all emissions related to fuel production, processing, distribution and use.
"For example, a petrol-driven vehicle produces 119g CO2-e/km, of which most are on-road emissions. In comparison, an electric vehicle produces zero on-road emissions," he said. "However, if electricity is generated from coal to charge an electric vehicle it produces 139g CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions, compared with only 9g CO2-e/km well-to-wheel emissions with electricity from renewable energy sources."
"In this regard, a transition from conventional combustion vehicles to electric vehicles has the potential to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially, if that electricity is produced from renewable energy sources."