It will take a village of disciples from all facets of the EV world to make emobility work.
President Biden is taking the decades-long conversation on climate change and putting muscle behind it, with concrete numbers and deadlines on infrastructure improvements. It is an ambitious strategy and in the case of his objectives for electric vehicle (EV) adoption, one that will have a life-changing effect on drivers of the estimated 100 million+ passenger vehicles in the U.S.
We know that EV adoption in the U.S. currently is a sad 2% for all new vehicles. We know getting consumers out of their comfort zone is a daunting task. But we also know how to make this happen. It takes a village – a village of auto OEMs, policy makers, consumer marketers and ‘key influencers,’ educators, EV industry suppliers and businesses. All must agree on one central point – getting consumers out of fuel-powered vehicles and into EVs is an essential part of making climate change more than a polite conversation.
The village concept is key because history shows a concerted, clear message can make or break an initiative. Recycling is a good object lesson here. After years of being aware recycling contributes to a healthy planet, U.S. households still only recycle half of what can be recycled. The industry consensus is that a lack of standardization and related education contribute to recycling’s lower numbers. In the EV world we see similar confusion getting in the way of adoption. We need to simplify access to credit and rebate information and work toward standardization. The U.S. Department of Energy and Plug In America both have great interactive maps to help sort out the array of different incentives in the states but OEMs can also help communicate the benefits of these incentives. Auto websites can have links to these maps and other sources in a dedicated place right on the home page so curious consumers can quickly learn about incentives.
Another way to make information easier to obtain is at the dealership level. Any major dealer could have an EV ‘concierge’ fully informed on the various tax credits and rebates in their respective locales and available to answer customer concerns or provide helpful referrals.
At the federal level we’re optimistic that President Biden will work to extend the $7,500 federal tax credit and the ceiling on 200,000 vehicles sold will go away. With major auto OEMS setting 2035 as the date for a wholesale transition to EV, extending tax credits will certainly help to encourage EV adoption as the industry makes such a momentous change.
Incentives do work and are available in 26 of the 27 EU countries. Twenty member states offer incentives such as bonus payments or premiums. Six countries grant tax reductions or exemptions. In February, the European passenger EV market registered over 115,000 units, with the market share continuing at 14% YTD. The European Commission is also spurring adoption by proposing Euro 7 emission rules that would effectively ban the internal combustion engine as of 2025. The rules are highly controversial and currently under discussion.
Turning Skeptics into Supporters
Standardization and better communication and support regarding incentives will help spur some sales. But to get from 2% to a number that can make an impactful difference, we need to also address the psychological aspects of EV.
This will take the other elements in our village – the key influencers, the celebrities, the consumer marketers – who know how to make a purchase ‘aspirational.’ Businesses also need to make emobility part of their corporate sustainable principles and think of company events – virtual or otherwise – to help show that emobility is doable for their workforce. And for all influencers it will have to be a consistent push, not just the obligatory events and media promotions around Earth Day.
Emobility as a lifestyle change is going to take a combination of classic marketing and a highly competitive approach on the part of the auto industry. The first wave of affluent Tesla buyers is over. To convince a wide range of people with diverse aspirations –and incomes – to make an EV their next purchase will take a powerhouse effort by the village.
A central point here is also the development of a reasonable and sustainable charging infrastructure. Getting consumers excited about a new vehicle is one thing. But creating a willingness to change their previous behavior and habits is another – even if it is more convenient overall because, for example, they no longer have to drive to the gas station to fill up, but can now charge the BEV at home. And that, of course, also has to be made known.
Influencer marketing needs to play a big part. As Mobile Marketing notes, the pandemic made influencer marketing even more powerful as streaming media replaced traditional television and cinema advertising venues. As the article notes, “Gen Z is the only generation who are equally as likely to follow famous people on social media as to receive updates from brands, proving that in partnering with influencers, brands stand a great chance of successfully targeting this audience.” The message is clear: the EV purchasers of tomorrow are more apt to take direction from Justin Bieber or the group BTS than any traditional ad.
Taking a page from Nike, Goop, and other key influencer successes the industry will need to spend marketing dollars on finding emobility influencers for each consumer segment.
We also need to make charging as easy as using a coffee maker. President Biden has set a goal of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. We encourage the industry to also support the use of mobile chargers that reflect the lifestyle of U.S. travelers. Instead of worrying about the next charging station, mobile and at-home chargers give consumers more options, and more of a comfort level when untethering from their familiar gas powered vehicles.
Lastly, we’re encouraged the industry is starting to offer EV models in different price points and models. Consumers expect a ton of choices and brand loyalty is not the compelling draw it once was. The more models available at competitive prices, the better the chance of consumers finding one they can buy to become EV owners.
It will take a village of disciples from all facets of the EV world to make emobility work. History has proven, however, that incentives and powerful, consistent communication can achieve success!
About the Author
Christoph Erni is the founder and CEO of Juice Technology. Based in Switzerland, Juice is the world’s leading producer of mobile 22-kW electrical charging stations.