Last updated: EV adoption: Convincing the reluctant consumer

EV adoption: Convincing the reluctant consumer


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Despite a growing number of environmentally friendly electric vehicles on the market, EV adoption lags as many consumers continue to have doubts about them. They worry EVs won’t go far enough on a single charge or about finding power stations. They think that buying and servicing them is too expensive.

As such, even though the world’s oil reserves are expected to expire within decades and fossil fuels make up about 27% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, consumers have been slow to embrace EVs, which account for 5% to 7% of U.S. new vehicle sales, according to McKinsey & Company.

EV “Adoption [rate] has not gone faster because there is a hesitation in pivoting from something that is so trustworthy, as the internal-combustion engine. to something that is a relatively new technology,” said Russell Hensley, co-leader of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility in the Americas.

To help boost consumer confidence, automakers are expanding their lines of fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicle models while increasing their investment in EV marketing and advertising programs.

Superbowl spotlight on electric vehicles

Indeed, commercials promoting electric vehicles made up 24% of automaker spending on TV ads last year compared to 13.8% in 2021, according to Inc., a television ad measurement company.

The idea is to encourage EV adoption by gradually transitioning car buyers into perceiving the vehicles as normal yet cool, desirable, and the next big thing.

In fact, four ads during this year’s Super Bowl – where big companies often try to make the biggest splash – featured EV or plug-in hybrid trucks, including:

  1. Dodge’s “Premature Electrification” ad featured Daily Show’s Jason Jones introducing the carmaker’s first electric pickup, the Ram 1500 REV. The humorous ad, playing on another kind of dysfunction, sought to counter concerns about EVs, like range anxiety and power limitation.
  2. General Motors and Netflix partnered on a 60-second spot starring comedian Will Ferrell driving GM EVs in popular Netflix shows to underscore how the streaming service is including more electric vehicles in its productions.
  3. Hyundai enlisted actor Kevin Bacon and his daughter to demonstrate that even older generations can enjoy the benefits of EVs in a commercial unveiling its all-electric IONIQ 6.
  4. Jeep employed animated animals for a commercial set to the 1983 party song, “Electric Boogie,” showing how its electric Wrangle 4xe and Grand Cherokee 4xe EVs can go anywhere.

EV adoption and corporate sustainability

Beyond automakers themselves, numerous brands are helping drive EV adoption by making electric vehicles part of their fleets and telling the world about it, including:

  • Amazon popped infomercials in November promoting its use of new electric Rivian Vans, stressing their comfort and sustainability benefits.
  • Bolt, the European transportation company connecting people to those electric scooter and bike rentals sitting around major cities, recently produced a commercial encouraging people to “Break Up to Break Free” from their emotional connections to internally combusting cars.
  • Domino’s, the pizza chain known for delivery, plans to roll out a fleet of 800 Chevy Bolt EVs across the US in the next several months. Its TV commercials promote the move as “good for pizza delivery and better for the planet.”

Appealing to the EV buyer

To accelerate EV adoption, marketers need to strike a delicate balance between continuing to make EV use seem normal and cool while addressing consumer concerns about perceived drawbacks through educational campaigns.

Not every potential EV buyer is the same. Many will care about buying them for environmental reasons. Others will want them because they’re tired of paying high gas prices and getting low miles per gallon.

Geeks, meanwhile, will be drawn to them for their cutting-edge instrument panels, entertainment systems, and silent operations.

As with any campaign, marketers must fully understand their buyer personas before setting out to appeal to them.

Debunking electric vehicle myths

If you’ve considered an EV, you’ve probably heard naysayers shoot down the idea with urban legends about their downsides. Common myths include:

  1. The grid not being able to support more EVs. The reality is that EVs don’t add as much demand as people think, and many supply authorities say they’re ready for increased loads.
  2. EV batteries are too expensive and can’t be recycled.
  3. EV charging takes too long. This misconception is based on data related to legacy connectors.

EV marketers have an opportunity to make inroads with consumers and increase adoption by building campaigns to specifically counter myths, and through product demonstrations.

Showcase EV possibilities

As with any kind of storytelling, landing a memorable message relies more on illustrating what’s possible than on pitching features and functionalities. That’s because people respond to simple emotional messages and tend to forget facts and figures.

With EVs, this could mean creatively showing how a family struggled trying to pay $5 a gallon for 20 MPG cars and how an EV saved them, or demonstrating how a hybrid business fleet car was able to deliver packages more efficiently using onboard and mobile navigation systems.

The art-and-science of plugging electric vehicles is still coming together. This is a new industry trying to disrupt an older one that continues to churn out products people like.

Unlike taxicabs, which Uber easily displaced because almost nobody liked them, or video stores, which streaming put out of business, consumers aren’t entirely done with their combustible engines.

So, as EV inventory rises, marketers need to spend more time and money explaining to motorists the many advantages of EV adoption – and how they might not have any other purchasing option after gas prices and legislation force traditional motor vehicles into the sunset.

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