How drivers decide whether to get a fuel cell vehicle: An ethnographic decision model

Rhian Stotts, Oscar G. Lopez-Jaramillo, Scott Kelley, Aimee Krafft, Michael Kuby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This article develops and tests an ethnographic decision model (EDM) of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) adoption using interviews with California residents that either actually adopted an FCV or “seriously considered” doing so before deciding against it. We developed an initial model from 25 semi-structured interviews in which respondents self-described their decision-making processes. We iteratively tested and refined the model in a second round of 53 structured interviews. The final model consists of a first stage that assesses FCV adoption feasibility and a second stage that compares FCVs to other vehicle types. The model ultimately correctly predicts 86.8% of cases in the sample. In the first stage, respondents preferred to satisfy their need for a primary refueling station near home but a substantial number were willing to rely on a station near or on the way to work or other destination. Most drivers required a convenient backup station and a means of managing long-distance trips. Vehicle size options eliminated a few respondents. None rejected FCV adoption due to insufficient driving range. In the second stage, nearly all drivers engaged in some kind of cost comparison, though the factors considered varied greatly. Most opted for what they viewed as the less costly option, although a few FCV adopters and non-adopters were willing to pay more for their more preferred option. EDM is a promising qualitative research method for generating insights into how people navigate the decision whether or not to get an alternative-fuel vehicle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8736-8748
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Feb 16 2021


  • Battery electric vehicle
  • Decision tree
  • Early adopters
  • Ethnographic decision model
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'How drivers decide whether to get a fuel cell vehicle: An ethnographic decision model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this