Are Electric Cars Winning the Eco-Friendly Race?

Social media conversations about electric vehicles tell us that consumers need affordability, not awareness — and we’re getting there.

It may not seem like it now, but the future is bright and green. And electric cars are driving us there.
Regardless of which side of the climate change debate you’re on, it is indisputable that the fight has come to occupy a significant space in public consciousness. We need to look no further than social media to verify this, where the eco-friendly car conversation has grown and become more varied in the last few years. The discussion first started to pick up in 2015, as consumers took to social to talk about climate change, vehicle efficiency, and renewable energy. However, electric cars stole the limelight swiftly, and captured the conversation from alternative fuels and hybrid cars. By 2016, electric vehicles owned more than 70% of the overall eco-friendly car conversation.

Not enough green for green machines

For several years, hybrid cars were considered the next step in the evolution of eco-friendly cars. But within the last couple of years, it has become clear that the audience on social does not need hybrid cars to be bridges to electric cars. In fact, it appears that, at least in consumers’ eyes, the time for 100% electric cars has arrived.
However, conversation volume does not necessarily imply positive sentiment. Our analysis suggests that, while EVs are surging as a discussion topic, the conversation is tinged in negativity.

While the sentiment around hybrid cars has remained fairly consistent, the discussion about EVs has been more volatile. What’s causing the negative sentiment around EVs?

Car of the future, not so much the present

There are multiple reasons for this — eco-friendly cars may be the vehicle of the future but at present, the category is largely considered unaffordable. Fully electric cars have only recently emerged as viable commercial options, and consumers are still weighing their pros and cons compared to hybrid cars and evaluating if the category meets their needs.
The negative conversation is focused on the concrete realities of owning an electric vehicle, including their (for now) higher average price tag. That, however maybe changing, as adoption gains momentum. In 2016, sales of electric cars jumped 60% to cross the 2 million mark with China, US and Europe accounting for almost 90% of sales.

Fret not, the future is still green


For now, more hybrid cars than purely electric vehicles are sold in the US each year, but the data suggests electric sales will likely move ahead of hybrids in the near future. The number of units sold has dropped steadily each year since 2013 —  500,000 hybrid vehicles were sold in 2013, compared to 350,000 by 2016.  Social media conversation on hybrids during in same timeframe remained flat.
Conversation around eco-friendly vehicles in the comparable period moved up, and sales followed suit. While electric sales still trail hybrid sales, the segment has grown nearly 4x since 2012.
Most states with the highest proportion of eco-friendly auto conversation also have the highest totals of eco-friendly cars sold, most notably California, Washington and New York, our data showed. This is aided by a US government mandate that requires a certain percentage of eco-friendly cars to be sold in states like Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The goal is to have 3.3 million electric cars on the road by 2025.


Some other states like New Jersey, for example, do not lead the conversation on eco-friendly cars but does so in terms of sales. Conversely, Oregon has relatively high conversation volume, but proportionally modest sales compared to the other states with mandates. Florida, for example, isn’t home to as much social conversation, but it’s ahead of Oregon in terms of units sold.

The Road Ahead

Consumers may not be walking the talk with eco-friendly cars just yet, but it is only a matter of time considering the rate of adoption. While we are still far away from battery-operated cars taking over the streets, the conversation and more importantly, the conversion has already begun. This is a part of a larger series on the automotive industry. Click here to download the full report.

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