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Electric cars have had their share of media attention in recent years.
But the public’s attitudes towards them remain a a bit of a mystery– unless you are Deakin University research student James Davidson.
James, a mechanical engineer working in Western Australia, is researching Australian consumer behaviour towards electric power vehicles.
There are two main arms to his work.
"Part of it is looking at what consumers are willing to pay for the attributes of an electric vehicle," he says.
"Electric vehicles are yet to become a commercial success and despite their advantages, there are still several major barriers to consumer adoption.
"Secondly, I am looking at the role of the psychological influences. When you make a decision you are influenced by thoughts, feelings and beliefs and they affect attitudes towards consumer behaviour."
James completed a combined undergraduate course at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus and enjoyed the environment from the start.
"It’s a really supportive open environment where you get lots of opportunities," he says.
Research related to consumer behaviour that he conducted during his honours year sparked his interest in furthering his efforts.
"I became interested in the topic of consumer behaviour and innovative cars because it is a growing field, plus I was interested in research generally," he explains.
Balancing his employment with his study commitments works well because he works in WA mines.
"I work on a fly-in-fly-out roster so I am away for eight days and then have six off," James said.
"Because of Deakin’s flexible learning environment I am always in contact with the university, whether it be through Skype meetings with my supervisors or email contact."
Engineers spend a lot of their time solving problems.
So, although the research James is carrying out is not directly related to his current job, he is well aware of its impact.
"One of the big things is that research in another area gives you another perspective on how to approach a problem," he says.
"We have to solve problems to improve the operating efficiency of the mines.
"Research skills improve my resourcefulness; they allow me to break down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable tasks."
Long term, there will be further benefits, he says.
"With a background in engineering I am in a highly technical and professional environment and research gives me another perspective – a more well rounded education that will help me in the future."
Working in various mines in the Pilbara region sees him in ‘another world and another culture’ compared with Geelong.
But he plans to continue his current job at least until he completes his PhD in 2015.
"Maybe later I will take on some form of engineering consultancy or management role," he said.
Meanwhile, he is grateful for the opportunity to continue his research at Deakin.
"The supervisors are very supportive and make heaps of time," he said.
"It’s a very open environment where you can talk to any staff member at any time and other support facilities, like the library will always take the extra step."