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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Clean Air Forever? A Longitudinal Analysis of Opinions about Air Pollution and Electric Vehicles


Many current initiatives to develop the electric vehicle depend upon public perception that electric vehicles (EVs) are good for the environment. This study investigates how people acquire information about the environment and EVs, and whether their opinions about environmental efficacy change over time and experience levels. These issues are explored across two data sets. The first data set is a panel survey of California households (n=1718) and environmental opinions are tracked over two waves of survey. A decline in the environmental ethos is associated with several factors, including interpersonal communications and exposure to more specialized media. A sample of households from the panel study were subsequently chosen, among others, to participate in a two-week long trial of EVs (n=69). Opinions about environmental efficacy are studied as users gain first hand knowledge of an EV. Opinions about the environmental efficacy of the EV show improvement, but trial users become less likely to cite the environmental benefit as a reason for choosing the technology, and they do not change their opinions about providing policy incentives.

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