Can Electric Vehicles go the distance? EV Audiences, Misinformation & Narratives in 2023
As the world transitions towards a sustainable future, the buzz surrounding Electric Vehicles is not limited to their sleek designs and reduced carbon footprints.
It's become deeply politicized, amongst both media and audiences. Navigating this landscape, where diverse audiences and narratives converge and split, poses a unique challenge for stakeholders in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, as well as governments, energy companies and all kinds of institutional bodies.
Marketing and comms professionals seeking to understand the dynamics and diverse perspectives surrounding EVs must therefore grapple with this intricate web of competing audiences and narratives - and it's only getting more complicated.
Look up what makes electric car batteries and then look up the top 5 producers of that and this Russia Ukraine War looks kinda weird
— We're Busy Eating Ice Cream (@Johnny2Barrels) March 10, 2022
Using Pulsar TRAC, we examined 3 million+ posts and articles from the US, UK, and ANZ regions between Feb 28 - Oct 31st. This data encompasses various platforms, including social media like X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and Reddit, as well as news sources and Google search.
As the electric vehicle revolution propels a new wave of mining for raw materials, audiences grapple with crucial questions - questioning if it is genuinely the most eco-friendly path toward a greener future. Simultaneously, concerns arise about the readiness of the infrastructure to align with these ambitious environmental goals. Engaged audiences must now navigate a topic that is infiltrated by misinformation.
We conducted audience analysis in three main regions, segmenting communities based on shared interests. In the UK, US, and ANZ, we identified three key groups: Conservatives, Progressives, and Techies. We've grouped these communities for international analysis, allowing us to outline differences in both geography and community.
Using TRAC, we can leverage AI to surface which narratives are impacting audiences the most, and how these mutate and coalesce over time .
Conservatives are critical, expressing skepticism about the EV industry and questioning the extent to which electric vehicles can truly reduce carbon emissions. They raise concerns about government incentives to promote EV adoption, which they believe may adversely affect traditional auto workers and the national grid supply. These critics also argue that EV production, including mining for essential minerals, raises environmental and labor-related issues.
It took us over a 100 years to get the automobile working well. 150 miles in a EV is trapping you. Look at the phoney Granholm & EV trip. We need to rebuild our Country first. We should have the freedom to choose.
— Anne C (@AnnCW24) September 15, 2023
Techies highly value the eco-friendly aspects of EVs while acknowledging the current shortcomings in charging infrastructure. These individuals actively exchange information about charging experiences, distances covered, and potential roadblocks to purchase. They view criticisms of EVs as scaremongering and advocate for cross-brand technology compatibility as a step toward a more viable EV ecosystem. Their perspective is that government intervention is crucial to establishing a more consistent charging network.
My assumption is that most of us do, but you know what they say about assuming something… so would love you to respond to (and share) this survey please 🙏
— Gill Nowell (@Gill_Nowell) May 13, 2023
Progressives view the expansion and investment in the EV industry as a significant boon for the economy, job creation, and personal finances. However, they also recognize that EV policy and investment can become pawns in trade conflicts and geopolitical tensions. The key discussion among progressives centers on identifying the ultimate beneficiaries of substantial electric vehicle investments: are the gains primarily benefiting the EV brands, shareholders, governments, everyday drivers, or the environment... and who loses out?
Govt. choosing winners/losers. Giving Elon essentially a leg up on EV vehicles and penalizing those investments now by removing incentives. "Hyundai was poised to become Tesla's top contender. Then the U.S. government blindsided it" https://t.co/BGWyYknEDl via @Yahoo
— Peppermint tea drinking, progressive, leftist (@murphy_strength) March 1, 2023
Exploring the top narratives across the EV conversation has unearthed a significant audience focus on materials, with minerals and materials playing a pivotal role in shaping how audiences perceive the EV market.
Lithium and cobalt take center stage in the materials sub-conversation. While all regional communities emphasize concerns about unethical labor practices, the US communities particularly spotlight the imperative for stronger national security. They delve into discussions on how government regulations may expose the country to potentially detrimental economic policies.
But all regions have their own national politics to traverse. The UK’s relations with the EU tend to have an impact on how audiences perceive the EV market.
Brexit destroyed the car industry.
Failure of Tory Government to invest in electric vehicles pushes us toward the back of the field.
Time for gaslighting to stop and truth be told
— dave lawrence 🐟🐟🐠 (@dave43law) May 18, 2023
Australian audiences, meanwhile, grapple with ethical trade challenges involving lithium-nickel negotiations with Indonesia. Concerns include reported deforestation from nickel mining, while advocates emphasize economic stimulation and job opportunities in developing nations.
⚠️ SHOCKING: Uncontacted Hongana Manyawa Indigenous people on video, as bulldozers destroy their forest in Indonesia.
Nickel mined from their land will end up in electric car batteries.
— Survival International (@Survival) October 30, 2023
While regional segmentation highlights political themes, community-based analysis -in which audiences are segmented by shared interests- offers a deeper perspective. Conservatives voice ethical concerns in mineral sourcing, while Techies embrace cutting-edge innovations like direct lithium extraction and mainstream use of sodium-ion batteries. Progressives focus on nickel, debating extraction methods; some critique for sustainability, while others applaud political initiatives for demand and national security, like the US-Africa partnership in nickel processing.
Platforms that allow for longer content threads and discussion, such as Reddit, provide a space where individuals can source knowledge from their peers. The irony that mining a finite resource is essential to a cleaner mode of transportation has not gone unnoticed amongst many on the platform. With sustainability concerns a main driver for EV take-up, this is a significant drawback for would-be buyers.
Naturally, these different narratives do not take place in a vacuum, but are closely tied to the reputation of the brands cast as protagonists in the space. One name, perhaps unsuprisingly, stands out—Tesla.
While Tesla garners frequent attention in EV conversations due to its groundbreaking role, market success, and trailblazing innovations, Elon Musk’s outsized influence on Tesla’s public image is a hugely popular topic amongst audiences.
In our 2021 analysis of the EV market, Volkswagen and BMW held the 2nd and 3rd positions for brand share of voice in EV conversations; a 2023 update on the data reveals three brands have overtaken them: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. And, if previous SOV was largely linked to brands expanding capabilities and making future projections, these more recent changes are often driven by less positive factors
"Ford is postponing $12 billion in EV factory building, including a planned battery factory in Kentucky. The reasons given were an unwillingness by customers to pay extra for its electric vehicles. You see, they’re too expensive, and now Ford’s massive transformation into an EV… pic.twitter.com/wM6GqbNvt8
— Net Zero Watch (@NetZeroWatch) October 27, 2023
Media coverage highlighting quarterly losses in legacy automakers' EV divisions can challenge the reputatation of both individual brands, and the sector as a whole. As a result, audiences are maneuvering through a complex landscape of conflicting headlines, prompting debates on what's fact and fiction, particularly on platforms like Reddit.
The electric vehicle industry is no stranger to the challenges of misinformation, which not only fuel the agendas of those disseminating false narratives but also confound potential buyers. Staying informed amidst the multitude of narratives surrounding the industry can be complex, but identifying the sub-narratives most susceptible to misinformation is key.
This analysis was conducted with Pulsar TRAC. Understanding how different audiences talk about brands, narratives, events and issues over time can bring powerful and unique insights to your marketing research, planning, creative and messaging.
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This article was created using data from TRAC