The fuel crisis of 2021 is making last year’s loo roll panic-buying fiasco seem quaint.

We’ve all seen never-ending queues of motorists outside petrol stations and heard horror stories of ambulances being unable to refuel. As the Government tells the public to calm down, the army has been mobilised and reserve tank drivers are now making their way across the country to deliver fuel. It looks, sounds, and feels like a crisis.

I personally knew it was serious when my grandpa mentioned that he wasn’t driving to the golf club to save petrol. Nothing stands in the way of my grandpa and golf.

At a crossroads

This heightened focus on fuel comes at a pivotal time for the UK car market. As the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles approaches and low emission zones become increasingly popular, there has been an increased interest in electric and hybrid vehicles.

And this interest is beginning to impact sales. While data from the SMMT revealed that new car sales were down by nearly a third (29%) in 2020, demand for EVs grew by 186% year on year. This means one in ten new vehicle registrations were electric or hybrid.

In terms of future market growth, widespread tech adoption tends to follow an ‘S-curve’. Experts predict that the EV market is where the internet was in the early late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1995 there were 16 million people online, in 2001 there were 513 million people, and it is now predicted that there are over 3 billion people online.

While we’re only at the start of electric mobility’s S-Curve, the fuel crisis is already having an impact. Google data reveals that while online searches for EVs increased by 1600% on Monday 24th September, there were no noticeable spikes in individual brands being searched for. This indicates that those looking into EVs now are not familiar with the market, making them new conquest customers for vehicle manufacturers.

Getting in pole position

So, what can we do to capitalise on this surge of EV curiosity? I’d argue three things:

Get under the bonnet
When talking about new technologies, it’s important to find a balance between making something feel familiar and understandable, whilst highlighting its unique benefits.

From being environmentally friendly, cheaper to drive and easier to maintain – there are many benefits to champion when it comes to EV. The challenge now is to align these benefits with the different electric audiences – from those at the start of their journey to customers who have been considering the change for a while. We must understand their passion points and where they go in order to be able to communicate the right messages in the right places

Unlocking new spaces
And in terms of the right place, online is king. As shown with the spike in EV searches, many new customers are beginning their research process online – so it is imperative that campaigns are created through an ‘online first’ lens.

From virtual showrooms to online courses, webinars, events, and roundtables, the pandemic has encouraged our industry to think creatively about how to engage with customers online. As we move into 2022, it’ll be important to unlock these new spaces without creating virtual fatigue.

Online content that provides a purpose for the target audience will be key – time is still valuable, even if it is being spent in front of a laptop.

In it for the long haul
Research has revealed that it takes consumers up to six weeks to buy a car, but factors such as brand recognition and vehicle type preference are often decided ahead of this.

In order to keep the conversation going, the storytelling around EVs needs to be evergreen – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of having peak campaign moments, manufacturers ought to weave electrified messaging into their ongoing press office and external communications.

Changing lanes

While it is predicted that the fuel crisis will last for another month or so, the memory of it will live on. This is due to ‘cultural memory’.

Cultural memory occurs when a cross-section of society is bonded over a shared experience, such as V Day, the Winter of Discontent, a pandemic loo roll shortage, and the fuel crisis of 2021.

The main function of cultural memory is not to reminisce about the past, whether it be good or bad, but to allow us to use knowledge of past experiences to avoid making the same mistakes again (and again). My grandpa doesn’t know how to use Google, so he can’t look up EVs, but he is keen to ensure that nothing stops him from getting to the golf club again.

The memory of the petrol queues and panic will linger and those searching for EVs now will remain curious. So, what are you going to do to get them to change lanes?