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Extinction Rebellion's London protests boosted car buyers’ EV interest

Scott Gairns, Sophus3 managing director

Car buyers interest in electric vehicles (EVs) peaked following disruptive protests by environmental activists Extinction Rebellion in London last month.

Data collated by Sophus3 revealed a surge of interest in EVs in the UK following the combination of the high-profile campaign combined with the introduction of ULEZ emissions legislation in London and the arrival of the world’s most high-profile electric car.

Sophus3, which analyses visitor journeys on virtually all car brand and major automotive publisher websites, found that online traffic to EVs in the 40-day period from the beginning of April was up 56%.

The 40 day period covered Transport for London’s (TfL) launch of its ULEZ legislation (April 8), the Extinction Rebellion climate change protests (from April 15) and news of the arrival of the Tesla Model 3 into the UK (May 1).

Scott Gairns, managing director, Sophus3, described the peak as “both reassuring and exciting to see” following a fall in interest in EVs during Q1.

Sophus 3 said that the significant peak in online interest and research into electric vehicles registered over this time period indicated “a direct impact on consumer behaviour towards EVs, stimulated by the environmental news agenda”.

It added that the trend had reversed “a worrying backdrop of falling interest in EVs” during Q1 (-6% year-on-year) when compared to other major EU car markets such as Germany (+43% yoy) and Spain (+41% y-o-y).

Scott Gairns, managing director, Sophus3, said: “We saw a worrying drop in online interest in EVs in the UK in the first quarter of 2019, so it was both reassuring and exciting to see this surge in online traffic to EV websites from April.

“We believe that the combination of environmental campaigning, low-emission legislation and news of the Tesla 3’s arrival stimulated a new level of consumer interest in EVs.

“It is not enough for a car brand to launch a new EV alone, nor for new legislation to try and promote low-emission cars by penalising traditional petrol or diesel cars, because the consumer is still confused about owning an EV, or even who sells them and where to buy them.

“All of our analysis in recent years has pointed to EV sales requiring both ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ for the consumer as we closely monitor how the online car shopper behaves when researching cars.”

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