Emotions Uncovered: Battery Electric Vehicle Design Drives Purchase Consideration for Consumers

March 28, 2023

Latest Escalent EVForwardTM Product DeepDive cracks the code on consumer emotions that drive BEV decision-making

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) design evokes emotions among shoppers, and Escalent’s new groundbreaking report reveals the answers to some of automakers’ biggest questions about how these emotions influence consumers’ purchase consideration.

Consumers’ emotions and factors of consideration are of utmost importance for automakers to understand and while automotive market research provides insight on logical, rational drivers of purchasing behavior, it has been historically difficult to quantitatively gauge how emotion informs the vehicle shopping process. Escalent—employing its proprietary, data-driven Evoke™ methodology, which uses curated images that have been scientifically linked to specific emotions—has cracked the code on how design drives emotional reactions that impact consumer purchase behavior.

Even when additional BEV specifications are introduced—such as brand and model, price, range, charge speed and battery warranty—exterior design remains an important ingredient in consideration. Consumers indicate BEVs don’t necessarily need to look different from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to be a sales success. Other design elements are much more important to consumers in vehicle consideration, with BEV Intenders—consumers who are 15 times more likely to purchase a BEV than the average new-car buyer, according to Escalent’s algorithms—finding an exterior design appealing if it appears exciting, luxurious, strong and responsive.

“Designs that evoke positive emotions are a leading factor of BEV consideration,” said K.C. Boyce, Automotive & Mobility and Energy vice president at Escalent. “Given the significant role emotions play in purchase decisions, it’s critical that OEMs understand how to create these positive emotional connections through design while still delivering BEVs that are competitive on price, range and charge time.”

Those are the latest findings of the 2022 Product DeepDive study from EVForwardTM, the largest, most comprehensive study of the next generation of electric vehicle buyers. The research program was developed in 2019 by Escalent, a data analytics and advisory firm with extensive experience counseling the world’s largest automotive companies. The EVForward Product DeepDive explores how consumer behavior is influenced by emotions and vehicle design, the importance of design in driving appeal and purchase consideration, and what is needed from the next generation of BEV products to win the next generation of BEV buyers.

Consumers show more reservations toward the BEV pickup segment, with 25% feeling a sense of disapproval in response to the vehicle designs. That’s 11 percentage points higher than the other vehicle segments. Four of the electric trucks evaluated fall within the top five for design disapproval, with Tesla Cybertruck evoking the highest level of disapproval (43%) across all vehicles evaluated.

“The pickup segment generates a higher level of surprise and apprehension and a lower level of admiration, joy and trust,” added Boyce. “Consumers’ emotional reactions to BEV pickups are most likely related to the powertrain, not necessarily the vehicles’ design. Pickup intenders value performance, functionality, utility and toughness, which are qualities not yet associated with battery electric powertrains.”

The report further explored interior design, since BEVs remove the constraints of traditional interior design elements, giving interior designers the flexibility to explore new design possibilities. Newer BEVs are trending toward an open driver cockpit that features a subdued center console and no floor division. However, the majority of BEV Intenders prefer the opposite—56% prefer a prominent center console and 46% prefer a floor division.

“As automakers experiment with high-tech designs, it’s important to consider the next generation of BEV buyers’ interior design preferences and desires,” said Nikki Stern, senior insights manager on Escalent’s Automotive & Mobility team. “While innovation and BEV design differentiation are motivating OEMs to stand out, they won’t be successful if they are overlooking what Intenders prioritize.”

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About the 2022 EVForward™ Product DeepDive

This EVForward DeepDive was conducted among a national sample of 1,494 respondents—with 43 EV Owner, 269 EV Intender, 590 EV Open and 592 EV Resistant respondents as identified by Escalent’s algorithm—from October 27 to November 15, 2022. These respondents are a subset of the EVForward database, a global sample of more than 50,000 new-vehicle buyers age 18 to 80, weighted by age, gender, race and location to match the demographics of the new-vehicle buyer population and by vehicle segment to match current vehicle sales. The sample for this research comes from an opt-in online panel. As such, any reported margins of error or significance tests are estimated and rely on the same statistical assumptions as data collected from a random probability sample. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

About Evoke™

Evoke™ is Escalent’s proprietary, data-driven approach to revealing emotion. It leverages a large, diverse collection of images that are quantitatively linked to the specific emotions they trigger—eight primary emotions (joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation) along with their various intensities and combinations. Rooted in Robert Plutchik’s academically acknowledged Wheel of Emotions, Evoke is a stronger, more robust approach that instills an unprecedented degree of objectivity into the exploration of emotions through a quantitatively validated process, peels back the layers of rational thinking to reveal the underlying emotions of decision-making, and enables participants to be more forthcoming, introspective, and honest in a highly informed, consistent way. Evoke is one of the tools created by Escalent’s Human Experience Center of Excellence, which helps clients build human-centric relationships that create meaningful connection, inspire loyalty and drive growth.

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