Have EV Social Media Conversations Shifted Since 2018?

by Simon Isaac on 13th January 2022

We produced our first Electric Vehicle (EV) Future Trends report back in 2018 and we’re starting 2022 with our updated report and what a shift there has been since then. Most of the change has occurred within the last 12 months as we emerge from the Covid pandemic and COP26, with increased awareness and media coverage of the impact of climate change as the world speeds towards a Net Zero utopia.

This is also reflected in the rise in online interest in electric vehicles, which according to Pulsar Research has seen social media conversations grow by 500% since 2020 and search traffic double in the same 12 month period.


How did predicted electric vehicle trends change?

Back in 2018, Morgan Stanley predicted there would be 1 million electric vehicles on British roads by 2020. As of the end of October 2021, the figure actually looks a lot lower than projected, with just 345,000 fully electric vehicles on the road (Source: Next Green Car). The good news is that pure electric vehicles are now outstripping the sale of Hybrids, which is a big shift from 2018, where 75% of newly registered alternative fuel vehicles were hybrid vs. pure electric. This indicates that the general car buyer is a lot more confident in electric vehicles as a mode of transport and we believe there are a number of factors driving this.


Has the electric vehicle conversation shifted?

This is where we have seen the most significant shifts in conversation types as we set out below with some interesting observations from our own experience as electric vehicles drivers of 6 years and 180,000 miles.


Electric vehicle battery range concerns shift to charging infrastructure concerns

Online conversations cited battery power and range as the biggest area of concern in our 2018 report, with 26% of online conversations relating to this. 2021 has seen the emphasis shifting to charging infrastructure, with 34% of online conversations now dominated by this topic.

This rings true with our own real-life experience as electric vehicle drivers of 6 years. The charging infrastructure in the UK is woefully inadequate, with the responsibility left to private businesses to resolve. This is dominated by energy providers and fuel companies as they forge ahead with their infrastructure rollout, but this is not keeping pace with the demand for charging.

Back in 2018, there were 2,000 rapid charging stations in the UK and this has only risen to 3,800 in 2021. We expect to see conversations regarding this become more prevalent very soon as the demand for rapid charging increases to outstrip supply.


The rise of environmental conversations around electric vehicles

There is also a shift in conversation to the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, since our 2018 report. At the time, the conversation around environmental benefits across the macro position in social media was less than 5%, due mainly to the small pool of electric vehicles owners in this space. This now equates to over 40% of conversations in social media, and there is no surprise there, albeit a welcome shift.

This is dominated by marketing led by energy providers, fuel companies and vehicle manufacturers; we call these ‘The Big 3’. Their shift to greener marketing has been remarkable, demonstrating that the economic benefits of the shift to electric vehicles are finally starting to tip the balance.

The more well off conspicuous consumer now has a new badge of honour – the electric vehicle. Manufacturers have latched onto this quickly with the launch of multiple SUV models to market, the transport of choice for many UK drivers. We will be sharing more on this subject in our upcoming downloadable guide ‘The Marketers Guide to The EV Driver Audience 2022’. Register to download this here as soon as it is released.


More choice of EV, more desirability for the conspicuous consumer

When we compiled our 2018 report, there were a handful of electric vehicles to choose from by Tesla, BMW and Nissan in the main. As of Q2 2021, consumer choice grew rapidly in a period of 18 months and this can be seen clearly in the number of new electric vehicle registrations here in the UK.

As of the end of October 2021, there were more than 675,000 plug-in vehicles with nearly 345,000 Battery-Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and 325,000 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) registered.

Top 5 generic models for ULEVS registered for the first time by fuel type


What does the future hold for electric vehicle conversations online?

We predict there will be a definitive shift in consumer conversation to focus on charging within the next 12 months. This will be in contrast to the marketing messages pushed out by vehicle manufacturers, energy providers and fuel companies. As the number of electric vehicles on the roads increases, the consumer will quickly become frustrated by a number of issues around charging, which The Big 3 have not addressed sufficiently to date and will need to ramp up quickly if the predicted uptake of electric vehicles is to take effect.


The 3 main consumer electric vehicle pain points in 2022


The lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure

The number of rapid chargers has risen from 2,000 in 2018 to only 3,800 in 2021. This is a completely out of kilter supply/demand scenario which needs urgent attention. Whilst most people charge their vehicles at home, topping up en route is essential in many cases.


The wait and time taken to charge an electric vehicle

On a recent 400 mile round trip, we experienced the reality of the lack of infrastructure. In a rapid charging station of 5 charge points, we waited 1 hour to charge and there were always at least 4 vehicles queuing behind us. The average consumer will not tolerate this and only the hardest of electric vehicle/environmental advocates will sit this out!

The cost of electric vehicle charging

The fuel companies have finally started charging heavily for kW⋅h at their rapid charging stations. In some cases, it’s now more expensive to charge an electric vehicle than to fill a petrol vehicle. We predict this is a blip, but also that we can expect the price to balance out over time, but the days of cheaper, more efficient travel are fast becoming a thing of the past for early adopter electric vehicle drivers.


About the author

Simon Isaac is Managing Director of Capsule Marketing, the sustainability driven marketing agency. As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a dedicated electric vehicle driver of 6 years and over 180,000 miles, Simon is a keen advocate of the green agenda, putting people and planet before profit. As part of this agenda, Simon is also fascinated by the revolutionary change New Energy Vehicles have on our world and future way of life.

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