Social Media’s Important Role in EV Adoption

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Alec

by Alec

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are undeniably having a moment. With a pandemic-weary public looking for ways to make their purchases more socially meaningful, governments offering increased financial incentives, and fuel costs skyrocketing…it looks like a perfect storm.
 
But will widespread adoption actually begin, within the next decade or so? You’d think so from the headlines—like California’s aggressive goal of entirely banning the sale of gas powered vehicles by 2035. Major auto manufacturers are clearly banking on substantial growth in their EV and hybrid product lines, with GM going so far as to announce it will offer only electric vehicles by 2035.
 
But beyond the buzz, the story gets a bit more complex. EVs only accounted for 9.7% of 2021 U.S. auto sales. And of the 250 million cars, SUVs and light-duty trucks currently on the road in the United States, less than 1% are electric.
 
More challenging still: according to a Pew Research Center survey from June 2021, nearly half of U.S. adults say they are unlikely to “seriously consider” purchasing an EV—citing barriers like high price, limited driving range, and lack of sufficient charging infrastructure.
 
But there’s also good news—and fresh insight—for EV boosters.
 
Meta’s February 2022 research report reveals that during the pandemic, global English-language Facebook posts about EVs increased an astonishing 238%—indicating a genuine shift taking place in public awareness and conversation. And a Meta-commissioned survey (2021) points to a surprising fact about purchase consideration: consumers are far more likely to respond to “pragmatic issues” (such as maintenance cost and actual driving experience) than they are to “environmentally conscious” positioning.

The messaging takeaway for the automotive and energy sectors, as they look to encourage EV adoption?
  • Day-to-day truths are the most persuasive. Consumers have surprisingly little direct experience with EVs: in fact, Meta discovered that 82% of EV rejectors have never actually been inside an EV. So potential buyers are hungry for reliable, practical information. Like the fact that—despite a hefty purchase price—an EV is actually cheaper to own and maintain than a conventional vehicle (fewer moving parts, fewer fluids to monitor, brakes that last longer); that domestic charging infrastructure is being added, continuously; and that there may be government incentives they’re unaware of…that can save them serious money. 
  • Not every emotional appeal needs to be about saving the world. Ever been behind the wheel of an EV? If not, you don’t know what acceleration feels like with a motor that generates 100% of its available torque, instantly. Talk about pick-up. (And beyond remarkable performance, don’t underestimate the joy of slipping out of traffic into the HOV lane…no matter how many passengers you have.) The EV driving experience can be a powerful story of driving enjoyment, independent of feel-good environmental messages.
  • With information, the source matters. A whole lot. Word of mouth—i.e. hearing from actual owners about their experiences—was cited by Meta survey respondents as “the most trusted source of EV information.” And currently, there’s far more in-depth information available about EVs on social media platforms than anywhere else (nearly all of it coming directly from the sources considered most credible). Influencers and enthusiasts will continue to have an outsized influence on consideration, for years to come. (For an object lesson, consider Tesla: in 2021, the Model 3 achieved the status of world's most popular plug-in electric vehicle. Advertising budget? Zero.)