Pierre McDonagh, University of Bath – Electric Cars

pierre-mcdonaghThe electric car has yet to hit the mainstream.

Pierre McDonagh, professor of marketing at the University of Bath, delves into the steps to get electric vehicles in more driveways.

Pierre’s research primarily focuses on the (im)possibility of sustainability within the prevailing order and oppositional counter culture. He has published widely on the interactions among Markets, Marketing and Society; dark marketing; critical marketing; and transformative consumer research. A current research project considers the experiences of lead users of electric vehicles.

Pierre’s research has been published widely and includes articles in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management and others. Pierre Guest Edited the first double Special Issue of the Journal of Macromarketing (with Andrea Prothero, University College Dublin) on ‘Sustainability as Megatrend’ (Sept 2014 and March 2015). Currently he is Guest Editing a Journal of Marketing Management Special Issue on ‘Sustainable Consumption, Activism, Innovation and Brands’ (with Diane Martin, Aalto University).

Pierre is Associate Editor for the Journal of Macromarketing, serves on the Advisory Committee for Transformative Consumer Research for the American Association for Consumer Research, and sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Marketing Management and Consumption Markets & Culture.

Electric Cars


Imagine that the first car produced in 1897 was electric and it has taken us until 2015 to really get back to thinking about how to mainstream electric vehicles again. Well there is nothing as strange as fact. Over that time period both petrol and diesel powered vehicles usurped the electric vehicle but now all that may be about to change

Fast forward to today and electric mobility is being lauded as one of the benefactors to VW’s “diesel gate” crisis. Our research is with lead users of electric vehicles and documents their experiences not from a rational consumer decision making perspective but more from an attempt to unpack the hedonistic relationship humans have with mobility in all its guises, an emotionality which has taken us back to the future of the horseless carriage. We are asking drivers of electric vehicle to contact us and share their stories of how they have end up driving an electric car, motorcycle or other mode of transport.

The research is motivated by the belief that mainstreaming of EVs will only occur if people really desire them as part of their material culture and events from history are on our side to show how much people loved and continue to love EVs. In order for consumers to fall in love with the EV both the production and provisioning infrastructure for travelling in an EV need to mesh together seamlessly.  Many countries like Norway, Ireland and parts of the UK are working to make this happen as are regions of the US.

Be careful though to jump to yell ‘eureka!’ too soon. Yes, air quality will no doubt improve but the jury is still out on the eco-credentials of an EV, fossil fuels are still being used to generate the majority of the Grid’s energy and as of yet we have not been presented with a compelling Life Cycle Analysis for an EV. Time will tell if this sort of Project Almanac can correct the formula to infinity and beyond.