Skip to main content

This is what it might take to get everyone to stop driving gas cars

Rebates and tax credits might need a tweak to incentivize consumers to fully switch to electric vehicles – here’s what a new study found.

Electrek spoke with Brad Greenwood, professor of information systems and operations management at George Mason University’s School of Business, about his recent research, which found that EV subsidies rolled out in China – similar to the US’s new $7,500 EV tax credit – incentivized people to buy EVs as second vehicles, but they kept buying and driving gas cars as well.

Here’s what Dr. Greenwood found in his research about what subsidies need to do in order to get gas vehicles off the streets – and for drivers to switch to fully electric.

Electrek: You recently conducted a study on EV subsidies as incentives for people to switch from gas to electric. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Brad Greenwood: The goal of the paper was to examine how EV subsidies affect both EV markets and traditional vehicle markets. There’s a lot of evidence that financial subsidies can stimulate EV purchasing, but we don’t know how they influence the purchase of gas cars. To the extent that the stated goal is the cannibalization of the treated market, it’s important to examine this question.

Electrek: Did the incentives work, and how, exactly?

Brad Greenwood: Well, it depends. Like a lot of other studies, we see that EV sales rise sharply when financial subsidies are offered. This, of course, makes sense, because you’re essentially lowering the price.

The concern is that the market – that is, both EVs and gas cars – expands overall, and there’s no observed decrease in traditional vehicle purchasing. Instead, it looks like consumers are either buying an additional vehicle, or buying a vehicle when they otherwise would have relied on alternate transportation options.

Electrek: Is there a way for incentives to be more effective to get people to fully switch from gas to electric cars?

Brad Greenwood: What’s pretty striking is that we see that the impact of the subsidy is strongest in cities with really poor air quality. But consumers don’t react heterogeneously in cities with higher fuel prices. That’s surprising, because consumers are reacting to a monetary incentive – the subsidy – but they don’t react more when prices for operating a traditional vehicle are higher – that is, when there’s a real financial advantage to having the EV.

Electrek: What do you think would make subsidies more effective?

Brad Greenwood: That’s a matter of speculation. What appears to be critical, though, is mandating abandonment of a gas car when purchasing the EV – that is, the gas car needs to be traded in, at least in the emerging stage of the market. We’re obviously going to need a lot more research to substantiate the factors that increase or decrease the efficacy of subsidies, but that’s the direction we’re pointed in now.  

Top comment by Tom

Liked by 27 people

Time is actually what is needed for one simple reason: Most people buy used vehicles, not new. We won’t see used market buyers give up ICE until there are enough used long range, fast charging EVs available to purchase at a reasonable price.

View all comments

Brad Greenwood is a professor of information systems and operations management at George Mason University’s School of Business with expertise regarding the consequences of innovation and the intersection of modernization, business, technology, and social issues.

Read more: This is where electric vehicle adoption is headed between 2022 and 2025

Photo: Tesla

UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Stay up to date with the latest content by subscribing to Electrek on Google News. You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.