Social influence in the global diffusion of alternative fuel vehicles – A meta-analysis

H. Pettifor, C. Wilson, J. Axsen, W. Abrahamse, J. Anable, Social influence in the global diffusion of alternative fuel vehicles – A meta-analysis, Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 62, June 2017, Pages 247-261.


Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) are likely needed to mitigate rising greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Private vehicle choices relate to practical as well as symbolic and social needs – all of which is influenced and shaped by culture. However, few empirical studies account for any form of social influence on vehicle choice. By social influence, we mean influences on individual choices from the behaviour or opinions of others.

This study provides the first meta-analysis of empirical studies which measure the strength of social influence on consumer vehicle choice, including AFVs. The goal is to improve understanding of vehicle choice as a socially and culturally mediated process.

Main Conclusion

#1 – The authors find consistent evidence that social influence has at least a small to medium (positive) effect on vehicle purchase behaviour, including alternative-fuel vehicles.
#2 – The strength of influence does not seem to vary by type of social influence, but does vary by study design (e.g. choice model vs. OLS vs. logit).
#3 – Culture moderates the strength of influence, with social influence effects being stronger in countries that are highly normative such as the USA compared to countries that are highly pragmatic such as China.


Related graphic based on paper