The auto industry is currently in the middle of one of the most significant disruptions in history:  electrification.  From changes to our daily commuting habits, to supply chain disruption and an increased focus on climate consciousness, electric vehicles (EVs) promise a greener, safer – even sleeker – solution to our mobility challenges. Add in rising fuel prices around the globe, and it’s no wonder that electric vehicles are seen as “the future,” while traditional internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles appear to be relegated to the PR scrap heap.

EV sales are in fact on the rise: a recent study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicle sales increased in 2021 and now surpass 10% of all light-duty vehicle sales. And auto manufacturers have their foot on the figurative gas when it comes to bringing new EV models to market: in 2021, there were 126 new hybrid and electric vehicle models, versus only 49 ICE models.

But while 10% of all light-duty sales represents tremendous growth for EVs, it’s still only 10%.  The vast majority of new vehicle sales are still internal-combustion vehicles.  In addition, our analysis of recent social data supports the concern that not everyone is sold on EVs– and that OEMs still have work to do to convince more consumers that EVs’ benefits outweigh the costs. In a new Synthesio report, we analyzed more than 14 million online mentions over the past 6 months to understand how the EV trend is evolving – and what consumers really think of the electric vehicle choices currently facing them. Here are a couple highlights:

  • Online conversations related to electric vehicles have increased by 27% in the US and 20% in Europe over the last 6 months, but high prices and battery issues dominate online conversations. New 2022 models like the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model 3, and BMW i4 have generated spikes in online buzz – and many new EV owners have turned to social sites to share their satisfaction with the performance and functionality of their cars. But the majority of online conversations pertain to what’s holding consumers back from embracing EVs: high prices, charging inconveniences, battery issues, and long wait times. Many online consumers feel like EVs are still too expensive for middle income families, and despite rising gas prices, they can’t afford the sticker price. Others are concerned that battery issues and degradation will render EVs not worth the investment in the long run.
  • Contrary to popular belief, consumers are more interested in EVs’ performance and speed than their environmental or economic benefits. Despite global support for the shift from fossil fuels as energy prices rise, online consumers in both the US and Europe seem to be more interested in the promise of higher performance and faster cars than reducing their emissions. Of the 14 million conversations we tracked and analyzed in the Synthesio platform, 32.2% were related to better performance and speed, 22.5% to environmental benefits, and 19.4% related to economic benefits. Among the most-discussed models in our data, the most associated emotion was joy, driven by the perception that EVs have now surpassed ICE vehicles in delivering speed, power, and torque.

As new models from established manufacturers and emerging electric-only brands bring more competition to the EV market, automakers must understand what’s really driving buyers to make the move from ICE to EV – and what’s holding them back. Click here to read our full report for more social findings, analysis of the top EV brands in online conversations, and behavioral insights about the EV audience.