- Jul 7, 2021 6:15 pm GMT
General Motors used its Super Bowl commercial — the highest-profile advertising event of the year — to highlight its commitment to electrify its entire lineup of cars, trucks and SUVs.
Ford earned rave reviews for the release of its F-150 Lightning pickup truck, an all-electric version of the best-selling vehicle in America.
President Biden proposed a $15 billion investment to build 500,000 EV charging stations, including a robust fast-charging network along the nation's roadways.
If you feel like you've been hearing a lot about electric vehicles lately, you're not alone. EVs are dominating headlines in 2021. For energy utility marketers who have been promoting EV adoption for years, it looks like our efforts are finally turning a corner.
The road ahead is promising, there's no doubt, but it is still riddled with potholes and potential detours. Despite the recent hype, many Americans remain unlikely to buy an EV, according to surveys. Many who are newly interested in going electric, meanwhile, are just beginning the journey and will be looking for basic educational resources from their energy utility to guide their purchase decision.
Getting customers in the EV driver's seat
If you've been working to promote EV adoption for more than a few years you probably have fond memories of 2018. That's when EV sales skyrocketed by 81% in the U.S., setting the stage for what many of us hoped would be sustained growth. Instead, electric vehicle sales actually declined in 2019 and grew a meager 4% in 2020. Over the last three years, EVs have accounted for about 2% of the new car market in the U.S.
Will that change in 2021? According to a recent J.D. Power survey of people who intend to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next 18 months, 20% said they were likely to buy an EV and 21% said they were unlikely. The good news for energy utility marketers: The remaining 60% are undecided, leaving a lot of customers in the middle who may be open to learning more.
It is important to remember that many of these customers are considering EVs for the first time. For the last few years we have been marketing to motivated customers with a relatively high level of awareness, and they are much farther along in their EV journey.
Now, we need to start over with the new segment of potential buyers who are just entering the market. Customers who are drawn in by the current publicity around EVs may have more questions and need more education than the early adopters, and the guidance of their utility will be critical.
Meeting old objections with new perspectives
While EV sales stalled in the U.S. in the last few years, there was one notable exception: Tesla, whose sales rose 36% in 2020. How did Tesla race ahead of other carmakers? By making electric vehicles cool. Tesla owners are passionate about their high-tech, high-performance luxury cars — proof that EVs don’t have to sacrifice style or fun.
Likewise, Tesla enthusiasts aren't held back by traditional objections like range anxiety or lack of public charging stations. And that's not because Tesla's performance far outpaces other EVs; most models on the market now have a range well over 200 miles per charge.
This is an area where energy utility marketers can help customers shift their perspective — to forget their old assumptions and start looking forward. For example, when customers fret that there aren't enough public charging stations, it's based on their experience with conventional cars. They expect to see the same number of EV chargers as gas stations.
In fact, that isn't a valid comparison at all. EV drivers who charge at home rarely need to use public charging stations. If you could fill up your old internal combustion car at home you wouldn't use gas stations, either. There may never be the same number of public EV chargers as gas stations!
Or, to think of it another way, if every home with an AC outlet is a potential charging station, there are already infinitely more EV chargers than gas stations.
Energy utilities can help customers see EVs in a new light. Don't get bogged down by tired old objections, which are increasingly irrelevant as the technology improves. Instead, demonstrate how an EV is an exciting, high-tech option that easily fits into a smart energy lifestyle.
Turn customer interest in EV adoption
Electric vehicles are getting more attention than ever before — and many customers are seriously considering getting behind the wheel for the first time. Energy utility marketers should recognize this new segment of potential EV buyers, who may have more questions and need more educational resources than the highly motivated early adopters.
We should use this opportunity to reshape their expectations, demonstrating that EVs are not only eco-friendly and affordable to operate, they are also fun and fast and a joy to drive.
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