Digital tools will be essential to the growth in EVs

Rebecca Crook argues that more digital tools and greater education around alternative purchasing models are needed to really help move the dial on EV sales

With the UK government banning sales of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2030, all eyes have turned to electric vehicles (EVs). For instance, ahead of the COP26 summit, the Transport Department announced its latest strategy to combat carbon emissions and encourage EV ownership, pledging money into the automotive supply chain as well as mandating that automakers sell a proportion of clean vehicles each year.

With Tesla shouting about EVs since 2008, it’s time for other car manufacturers to catch up and not only bring forward their own ranges of EVs but to also create the supporting user tools and experiences needed to accompany them. Electric cars have been a second thought for many motorists in the past, but things are changing. In the first eight months of the year, 8.4% of new car sales in the UK were fully electric. While that doesn’t sound like much, the number represents a 106.7% increase from the same period the year before.

Perceived barriers to EVs

Despite the growth in EVs, there still remain reasons for drivers to be hesitant about the switch to electric. Worries about charging point availability, lack of information or help when it comes to charging, financing options, build quality, and the extra costs that come along with owning an electric car are some of the most common barriers.

Electric cars have been a second thought for many motorists in the past, but things are changing

Perceived lack of product choice is also a big reason drivers are sticking to gasoline and diesel options. Many drivers are still in the mindframe that their options for an EV are limited to very expensive models like Tesla. In reality, there are more options for affordable mid-range cars available now, which can be funded in cost-efficient ways like Salary Sacrifice or PCH (leasing) which means it’s accessible for most drivers. So the barrier here isn’t insufficient models to choose from; it’s the lack of awareness and education, which the industry must work to change.

For example, Rolls-Royce recently announced the launch of its first electric car, Spectre. Ferrari has also spoken about its EV plans, with the brand saying that its long-awaited journey into the EV space will launch in 2025.

Earlier this year, Somo surveyed 2,000 UK consumers (non-EV owners, EV owners, and non-EV owners who were looking to make a new car purchase in the next 12 months) to better understand their attitudes on switching to, or driving, an electric car.  From that research, it is clear there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to build quality. 40% of the EV drivers  polled believe that the quality of EVs aren’t as good as gasoline/diesel alternatives.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Some drivers are unaware that the range of models on offer is growing, with options across different price points

Solving the issues

There are several ways brands can help with the adoption of EVs, other than building infrastructure and ensuring that build quality meets customers’ expectations (especially from the luxury brands with higher price points).

Creating digital tools such as over the air updates or smart alerts to enhance the buying and owning experience, and to give consumers information could be one way manufacturers put their brand at the top of the list, and convert those sitting on the fence of switching. Somo research backs this up by revealing that both non-EV and EV drivers endorse the idea of community engagement: 59% of non-EV drivers asked would use a digital tool to connect them with other local EV drivers to discuss their experiences. And it works, with 45% of EV drivers asked already actively using digital tools.

40% of the EV drivers  polled believe that the quality of EVs aren’t as good as gasoline/diesel alternatives

There’s also room for improvement on the apps already in use as 70% of EV drivers polled were not fully satisfied with the manufacturer’s app or connected device experience. It’s important for people to be digitally connected and have everything they need at the touch of a button; the user experience and efficiency of an app or digital tool is enough to sway a potential customer into purchasing.

For the EV revolution to truly take off and become the norm, there needs to be improvement in all areas. Whilst the industry is seeing steady gains in the charging infrastructure such as Shell’s plan to install 50,000 new points by 2025, there needs to be an improvement in other areas too. More education for both retailers and motorists about things like alternative purchasing models and product range, more digital tools, and better use of EV driver advocacy to really help move the dial.

About the author: Rebecca Crook is Chief Growth Officer at Somo

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