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Hatred of e-cars: psychologist reveals why e-car drivers are attacked

01. June 2022 | Dominik Zarychta

Prof. Dr.  Claus-Christian Carbon answered the most important questions about e-hatred on EFAHRER.com.

EFAHRER.com/PrivateProf. Dr. Claus-Christian Carbon answered the most important questions about e-hatred on EFAHRER.com.

Insults and unfriendly behavior are nothing new for electric car drivers. This behavior increases with increasing sales figures. EFAHRER.com teamed up with the psychologist Prof. Dr. Claus-Christian Carbon talked about the reasons and many other questions.

December 2021: In Oberndorf am Neckar, a charging Smart EQ fortwo is forcibly unplugged at night and the entire charging device is severely damaged. Not uncommon if you read through police reports and electric car forums. Electric car owners speak of insults on the open road and the fear of one day finding the vehicle completely scratched.

As early as 2016, Professor Claus-Christian Carbon carried out an experiment in which he examined the prejudices against electric car technology. He and his team found: “People mostly feel dislike because of prejudices, electromobility is no exception. One has to understand the nature of these biases in order to effectively address them.”

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EFAHRER.com asked the Chair of General Psychology at the Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg the most important questions on the subject. Here are the answers:

More on the subject: Do e-cars burn more often? Munich firefighter explains

What are the reasons for the resentment towards electric cars?

“There are both: resentment about electromobility and fascination with a new technology. Dissatisfaction with this topic arises from two different things: On the one hand, there is real melancholy at the farewell to combustion engines — we must not forget: significant inventions in the field of combustion technology were made in Germany: from diesel to Otto and Wankel engines. If all of that is supposed to be gone now, that’s a real farewell.”

Martin Eberhard, co-founder of Tesla, sees a similar reason. At a presentation by Tesla Motors in 2008 he said: “Electric cars have been made by people who don’t like cars. They want the customer to change their nature and that is a mistake. We have to offer them a car that they want.” This is where the big point of conflict comes up in Germany: car lovers who adore combustion engines versus those who see the future in electric cars.

Nevertheless, Professor Carbon does not only see resentment in Germany: “There are also those strong fascination and positive emotionalization for this technology: low noise, no direct emission of climate-damaging and odorous emissions, and also the gentle and powerful acceleration.”

A Stuttgart tuner who now specializes in e-car tuning also sees the fascination. The whole article read here.

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When does dislike develop into hatred?

“People pounded on automobiles in the horse era, the aggression and uneasiness towards the innovative, the unfamiliar and downright strange has never really left us. But: these are isolated cases, and with the granting and the new normality, the conspicuousness of electric vehicles will also decrease and with it the reason to be able to get upset about it at all.

If we talk to each other again in ten years, a lot of people will have reservations about classic combustion engines—the bet stands! Hate, but this much even now, is never something that is productive. A healthy argument looks different.”

“Debates, on the other hand, are good because they exchange different points of view. Mobility is an important and emotional topic, it encourages talking about it.”

In April of last year, vandals had fun in Munich and stuffed minced meat into the charging station.  Just vandalism or protest against the charging stations?

SWMIn April of last year, vandals had fun in Munich and stuffed minced meat into the charging station. Just vandalism or protest against the charging stations?

But is it even possible to have objective debates when it’s an emotional issue?

“A lot depends on mobility: on the one hand, personal happiness in deciding where and when to go, on the other hand, jobs, economic strength, prosperity, future viability depend on mobility. If an entire market is about to collapse, namely the one that serves combustion engines that run on fossil fuels, then as an innovation leader you don’t have to cry for what will soon be lost, but instead develop convincing modern concepts as soon as possible that can open up a large market.

This must be made clearer to people: Electromobility is not primarily a flagellation, but a huge opportunity, also as an innovation market in which Germany can score. Ultimately, this can then become a similar success story as it was over 100 years ago with the combustion engine, which also had to prevail against horse-drawn carriages. And as is well known, horse-drawn carriages in Germany no longer generate any significant sales… significantly, neither does saddles, bridles and wooden wheels.”

More on the subject: Too expensive and not enough range: reservations about e-cars are still great

Have car manufacturers and the state done too little to pick up the citizens?

“Automobile manufacturers were very late in pulling the reins, to stay with this language metaphor. It was communicated too late that Germany, as one of the innovation leaders, cannot take any other path than consistently working on new innovations. Incidentally, the strong overemphasis on electromobility compared to other known and future mobility technologies is another reason for the lack of acceptance, because people react to the restriction of their degrees of freedom with reactance, and at the end of the day that is non-productive behavior.”

We must and can do much more here, and this must be done urgently! The incentive system for switching to electromobility is also rightly criticized and rejected by many. The factual preference for high-income buyers is not fair and ultimately not effective.”

What can be changed in the future to approach the topic more objectively and less emotionally?

“We have to be honest about the pros and cons. We must prioritize long-term calculations over short-term calculations because this is a very long-term project. And it must be clear that we are actively tackling the hurdles that still exist today in the production of such vehicles in order to solve associated problems in the long term, e.g. ethical aspects of mining rare earths, supply bottlenecks in lithium, monopoly positions in palladium and the like. We have to inspire people and not teach them. The future belongs to those who understand that!”

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Do you also drive an electric car or a plug-in hybrid and experience special, frustrating or fascinating stories with it on holiday or in everyday life?Write our editors an e-mail!We share your story with millions of electric car fans!


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