Canadians still interested in EVs amid the COVID-19 crisis

Our columnist dove into the Google search rabbit hole and discovered search volume for EVs is steady during the pandemic while declining for other vehicles.

Google Data Says The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the entire auto industry and EVs are not immune to this phenomenon.

With EV production almost completely shut down and some Canadian dealers forced to close their showrooms to comply with demands from governmental authorities, there is general consensus in the EV industry that 2020 is not going to be as good a year as many expected for EVs in Canada.

The impact on the supply side is making the headlines these days, but what about demand?

What will be the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer demand for EVs in Canada?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’ve dug up some data that can help shed light on Canadian’s current level of interest in EVs. Canadian dealers may want to ensure they have some EVs in stock for when business resumes.

In recent days I’ve been reading articles claiming that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis could be greater for EVs than for internal combustion engine vehicles. Some people based this claim on gas prices, others on battery supply, and some also pointed at vehicle purchase cost.

While these may sound good in theory, I wanted to see if I could find some data to use as a metric to gauge Canadian’s interest in EVs. I wondered if the data would fit with some of these theories?

After a few clicks I found exactly what I was looking for: the history of Google searches for different terms by Canadians. With this information at my fingertips, I systematically tested the search volume history of each EV and plug-in hybrid car model sold in Canada.

The verdict?

According to Google, on average, the interest of Canadians for these vehicles (as based on the search query volumes) is similar to what it was just over one year ago.

I’ll admit it, I was surprised by the result. Gas prices are at a record low in years, millions of people are losing their jobs, a deadly pandemic is raging, and Canadians are just as interested in electric cars as they were at the beginning of 2019 — the biggest year for EV sales to date. A year when demand exceeded supply for almost all EV models available to Canadians.

Since I wasn’t expecting EV search volume to be as high in current times, I wondered if perhaps those staying at home as a result of the pandemic were just spending more time searching for things on the Internet. That could perhaps explain the high search volume for EVs, so I thought.

To find out I started to query one-by-one all the most popular ICE vehicles sold in Canada in 2019 and 2020: F150, Ram, Rav4, CR-V, Sierra, etc.

No matter what highly popular vehicle I queried, Silverado, Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Escape, Rogue, Tucson, CX-5, the results were always the same: popular ICE vehicles currently have search volume levels on Google that are below anything we’ve seen in the past 5 years!

After a few clicks I found exactly what I was looking for: the history of Google searches for different terms by Canadians.

Given this result, the relatively high volume of searches for EV models is an even stronger indicator of the interest of Canadians for these vehicles.

As I’m writing these lines, we’re still early in the COVID-19 crisis, and no one knows what things will look like in 2 to 3 months, but as of right now, it seems that if OEMs can produce EVs and if dealerships can stay open to sell them, there is more than enough buyer interest to purchase every single EV that makes it into Canada in 2020.

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