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Understanding the EV customer


In the energy sector, we hear a lot of discussion about “the customer”. On the one hand this is great to hear; a sign that an industry that hasn’t traditionally been customer centric is now gradually becoming more so. But it’s also a horrible generalisation – one that we have also been guilty of.

Of course, there is no such thing as the customer, especially when it comes to electric vehicles. There are myriad different customer ‘types’, differing in a multitude of ways, from hard characteristics such as their driving habits or whether they have off road parking, to soft characteristics such as attitudes, values and preferences.

Innovation theory – and the success of companies like Amazon – tells you to embed customer insight at every stage of strategy, business model and proposition development. Build businesses around the customer rather than build first then hope customers will come (also known as the ‘field of dreams’ approach).

This is why we’re very excited to have customers as a core focus of our EV & Electricity research (building on, for example, our research with customers across different European markets on various aspects of ‘new energy’ and our Customer Data Value Service).

We’ve just completed in-depth research with 1,000 prospective EV buyers. We’ve been able to characterise these customers by both hard and soft characteristics, use sophisticated analytics to group them into three quite different segments, and use conjoint analysis (a type of ‘choice’ experiment) to dig into the trade-offs they may make such as those around time, price and convenience of charging.

Sharing some highlights of our research:

  • 85% of prospective EV buyers have access to off-street parking, and around half use their car for commuting.
  • We identified three main segments – ‘Suburban Commuters’; Mix-And-Matchers’; and ‘Home Dwellers’.
  • While the overall likely charging mix was not that surprising there are distinctive differences between segments. ‘Mix-And-Matchers’, for example, expect under half their charging to be at home. ‘Home Dwellers’ on the other hand expect nearly all of their charging to be at home but are by far and away the least ‘tech-savvy’ of the segments.
  • If destinations (such as supermarkets) subsidised charging to increase footfall, this would increase destination charging by as much as 20 percentage points.

Our second strand of EV research to date has explored twenty of the leading EV charging propositions from across Europe. Our focus here was on the customer proposition and then the underlying business model.

While we found lots of interesting and promising propositions, one stood out in providing a simple, all-encompassing offer for the customer that incorporated a tariff, a home charger, and access to a charging network. Many companies offer these different elements, but Fortum’s offer stands out for its simplicity, more akin to a mobile-phone type bundle than what’s typically on offer in the energy sector today.

Looking across these propositions, we have been able to draw out a number of themes, gaps and opportunities. You won’t be surprised to hear that one gap is the lack of differentiated propositions suitable for different types of customers – maybe not unexpected given the very early stage of the sector. Others include workplace charging, flexibility and smart charging, and autarky (customer ‘independence’).

We’re excited to be working with a variety of companies to on these topics and are now launching an ongoing research service focusing on the EV & Electricity intersection, building our research programme around our customers’ evolving needs.

To find out more, visit, or send me a message to exchange views on this fascinating topic. You can also watch our latest webinar below:

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