Driving in to 2023: the evolving electric vehicle landscape

Electric vehicles were once a thing of futuristic novels. Now you will notice them populating the roads, news agenda and TV screens across the UK.

As the EV industry has matured and developed so have the habits of vehicle owners across the country. In fact, there has been a 3x growth in preference for fully electric cars from 2020 to 2022 with 52% of respondents to a recent EY survey stating that they would opt for an EV for their next purchase.

In December 2022 1/3 of all new car sales were electric yet the industry’s long-term future still hangs in the balance. 2023 will be a critical year for the sector’s prospects and there have already been several developments that present significant challenges and opportunities for businesses operating in the space.

In this article we will analyse the trends that are shaping the industry and the evolving role effective communications has to play in response to these changes.

Waning government support

Despite the growth in EV demand from both consumers and fleets, support for the industry on a governmental level has undoubtedly regressed since Rishi Sunak’s accession to number 10.

The high-profile challenges faced by Britishvolt, arguably one of the country’s most promising prospects on the global stage, presented a clear opportunity for Sunak’s government. The decision not to provide financial support has been seen by many commentators as a bellwether for this government’s stance on the EV industry at large. For even the most optimistic of observers, the consequent introduction of road tax for EV drivers and rumours around the reversal of the 2030 ICE ban have set a worrying precedent for the transition away from more polluting vehicles.

Unclear and unsupportive government legislation is sure to have a negative impact on both international and local investment in the sector. Now more than ever, businesses operating within the space must be engaging proactively with key public and political stakeholders to influence an operating environment that supports investment, growth and job creation within the UK. If the government fails to provide additional support the risk is that this capital will be directed elsewhere to countries offering more supportive legislation.

Rising charging costs and conflicting communications

The ongoing energy crisis is presenting a number of issues for existing and prospective EV drivers. With energy costs soaring there have been several recent headlines about charging costs increasing by more than 50% in the last 8 months.

Whilst charging costs have undoubtedly increased, so have running costs for petrol and diesel vehicles. Electric vehicles have historically been cheaper to run and there continues to be reams of data published that validates this assertion.

The sheer volume of conflicting information within the media has created a climate of uncertainty and confusion for businesses and motorists considering making the switch to EV. For those providing solutions there is a clear need to establish an authoritative voice on these challenges that educates key audiences and cuts through the noise. Given the rising importance of cost as a driver for purchase, educational messaging must be communicated proactively across a range of channels in order to effectively validate the value that EV solutions can provide. This week Elon Musk’s Tesla announced that they were cutting prices by almost 1/5 in order to stimulate demand.

Evolving mobility habits

The aforementioned cost-of-living crisis, in tandem with the climate emergency is also influencing several shifts in urban mobility behaviour. As motorists seek to reduce mileage in order to improve their environmental impact and cut costs, the need for outright vehicle ownership arguably will take a back seat. This shift will bring more flexible solutions to the fore in 2023. Analysts have predicted that the market for car sharing for example will grow by at least 20% throughout this year.

Brands now have the responsibility and opportunity to showcase the value they can offer consumers by focusing messaging around life-time value and adapting solutions to consumer and business needs.

For firms offering alternatives to outright ownership (whether that be leasing, rental or sharing) significant challenges remain due to the high levels of trust attached to traditional purchasing models. Ultimately, fleet managers and consumers alike will not commit to purchasing if there is a knowledge gap. Therefore, it requires brands to use impactful content and communications to educate audiences and build trust and awareness for non-traditional models.

Our work with Octopus Electric Vehicles centred around education and successfully addressed misconceptions of EV affordability.

Eastern expansion

Several Chinese EV manufacturers are targeting the UK market as they look towards global growth. BYD,  Nio and Ora have all either launched or are planning to launch operations in the UK.

Trust and awareness are critical for these manufacturers for the same reasons outlined above. Awareness from UK audiences is currently low and given the importance attached to the vehicle decision-making process generating trust will be key to the success of this transition.

Whilst there are challenges and opportunities for these fledgling brands, their expansion also poses a threat for legacy manufacturers as competition increases.

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