Data on popularity of Google searches for “electric vehicles” over the past five years. Source: Electric vehicles – Explore – Google Trends
As the EV market continues to soar, so too does public interest in EVs. Interest in the search term “Electric Vehicles” on Google reached a new high in March 2022, the final month of the best quarter on record for EV sales. As EVs continue to captivate the public imagination, I wanted to see what people were drawn to about EVs on social media, so I watched the top 10 EV videos in English on YouTube over the past month (by views with the search “electric vehicles” as of June 29, 2022).
Here’s what I found:
1. Mahindra Born Electric Vision || Solving For Tomorrow
Mahindra wins the month with over 9 million views on this ad (which has likely been sponsored given that it way outpaces any other video in views). Mahindra is one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in India and manufactures a lot of tractors. For the most part, the video consists of rhetorical questions, dramatic music, talk of sporty electric SUVs, and versions of the “future is electrifying.”
2. Coal Powered Electric Cars #shorts
This short clip is about the launch of a new GM vehicle in Lansing, Michigan. A local official at the end reveals that the grid in Lansing is predominantly powered by coal. This is meant as a “gotcha” moment for electric vehicles. Analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists points out that even for the most fossil fuel dependent grids (including Michigan), EVs are still almost always cleaner than gasoline vehicles because of their efficiency. Likewise, BNEF and this study out of the UK made the same point and as the grid gets cleaner, the emissions savings only grow.
3. Karl Rove blasts Democrat bragging about pricey electric car
In this Fox News clip, Karl Rove attacks Senator Stabenow as being out of touch about electric vehicles for her comment about gas prices and electric vehicles. Rove does a Katie Porter with the whiteboard, the only difference is that his numbers are breathtakingly bad. By his math, one would have to drive an EV 1.3 million miles before it is cheaper than a gasoline vehicle. This is based on some poor assumptions that he lays out including that gasoline and electricity are nearly the same price per mile. Rove says, pointing to his board, that fuel costs 45 cents per mile for an EV and 47 cents for a gasoline vehicle. These numbers are very off DOE numbers and analysis we did earlier this year.
4. The 2023 Toyota bZ4X Is Toyota Finally Going Electric
Doug has 4.4 million subscribers and this video runs over 25 minutes. Eventually Doug gives it a “Doug Score” (dear Doug fans, please stop here because there are spoilers ahead). In short, the bZ4X is not the “most compelling electric vehicle” but is affordable and is an electric vehicle from Toyota. He gives it 54 out of 100. For reference, the Tesla Model Y and Mach-E top the list at 68.
5. ‘Embarrassing omission’: General Motors’ electric vehicle mishap
Another clip of the same GM clip and the coal grid run by the conservative Australian outlet, Sky News, with taglines including “Uncomfortable truth about electric vehicles” and it’s “not all it’s made out to be”.
6. Kennedy: Democratic senators pushing electric vehicles are out of touch
Senator Stabenow makes the list again. In this Fox News clip, Stabenow is pictured next to a vehicle with cash flying out the back of the vehicle. Kennedy, the host, tags Democrats as out of touch elites for promoting expensive EVs and mentions Colbert for his comments about owning a Tesla.
7. Here’s How Much TIME & MONEY It Costs to Drive The New EV Ford Lightning Cross Country! Part 2 of 2
This clip runs over 50 minutes and sorry to Andre and the other guy, but I did a lot of fast forwarding through their long road trip while driving an F-150 Lightning. They seem happy about the vehicle and the cost savings but less happy about the amount of time taken to charge and the lack of reliability of some chargers.
8. Gravitas: Electric vehicles are bursting into flames in India
“Are Electric Vehicles Safe?” is sprawled over the screen in this news report after an EV caught fire in Mumbai, India. The vehicle was made by Tata and happened because the battery exploded, according to the host. The reporting makes out that there is a global issue of fires and emphasizes how hard those fires are to put out. The host repeats multiple times that EVs are the future and the “transition will happen”. The data suggest that EVs are much, much safer from a fire perspective than ICE vehicles – though that does not get a mention.
9. First Electric Hummer Is Faster Than A Lamborghini
Supercar Blondie has over 8 million subscribers on YouTube and reviews supercars. In this one, someone who is not Supercar Blondie reviews the electric Hummer and very often reminds us that the vehicle is “cool”. Less cool is that the electric Hummer causes more CO2 than a small gasoline vehicle nor how dangerous it may be on the road given its weight. But at least it can crabwalk?
10. How GM Is Going All In On Electrification | CNBC Marathon
This 41-minute video from CNBC is a mashup of videos that cover the history of GM’s electric push, electric boats, and the Ultium platform at GM.
So, what can we learn from this list? There are a few narratives across these videos:
Electric vehicle technology is cool and futuristic
Electric vehicles are not actually green
Electric vehicles are for out-of-touch elites
Electric vehicles are dangerous
By watching these popular videos on YouTube, we get a sense about the things about EVs that excite or concern people. It is worth underlining that this is a small sample and that I did not watch all of Doug or Andre’s videos. That said, there is a very valuable practice of understanding what people are hearing and learning about EVs on the world wide web.