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Driving an EV: a new practice? How electric vehicle private users overcome limited battery range through their mobility practice

Panel: 4. Mobility, transport, and smart and sustainable cities

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Magali Pierre, EDF R&D, Lab-Saclay
Anne-Sophie Fulda, EDF R&D - EIFER, Germany


The sales of the electric vehicle have been less successful than expected. Apart from its price, technical limitations relative to the EV, and especially the reduced battery range, are often mentioned to explain this. Nevertheless, a niche market has been developing in France for some years, which seems to be unaffected by these limitations. How do the owners of EVs cope with these difficulties and overcome them when driving? Our point of departure consists in showing the results of a field study dealing with the routine mobility practices with an EV, conducted in 2013. The EV mobility practice, as we will see from the analysis of our face-to-face interviews amongst EV owners, relies on behavioral adaptations of the driving mode, but also on a better anticipation of the driving distances, on a forecast of the location and arrangements of the parking places and on an invention of one-off solutions in order to manage the unexpected. Some of the EV owners link this use to a technological change register. From this point of view, the EV questions the practice of mobility.

At the same time, the EV introduces quite small changes in the mode of transportation. When the learning phase is over, the trips become as common place as before. Even the charging gestures are integrated into a daily routine. This evolution towards routinization is obvious for the EV drivers, who recall registers and competence portfolios that prevail in other domains: economy of gestures, anticipation ability, help from the social network, etc. Driving an EV only conduces to reactivate these experimented portfolios. This paradoxical dynamic of practice will be examined thanks to the support of social theories of practice, to the extent that these theories help us understand how fluently this process operates. As a matter of fact, such a process is supported by a co-evolution of meanings, material systems and competences inside the mobility practice. The reactivation of previous symbolic registers and know-how that are adapted to the new material arrangements (including cars and charging infrastructures) both explain the concomitant dynamic of changes and routines.


Download this paper as pdf: 4-405-15_Pierre.pdf

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