Is 2018 the end of the ICE age?

Is 2018 the end of the ICE age?


London, 16 January 2018: As Europe’s only automotive technology company analysing website activity on behalf of virtually all European car brands (OEMs) and automotive media, Sophus3’s new whitepaper – “The end of the ICE age? – Digital insights into the electric vehicle buyer” – delivers a unique level of insight and analysis into 2017’s electric vehicle (EV) buyer trends, and predictions for 2018’s EV market.


Four years since Sophus3 looked at the difficulties the OEMs were having trying to sell electric vehicles to sceptical consumers, and less than 12 months before some European cities ban diesels, Sophus3 has taken another detailed look at the online behaviour of car buyers interested in EVs.


All indications are that 2018 will see game-changing impacts across electrification and significant uptake of hybrid or full-electric vehicles if Europe’s car brands address core consumer concerns and engage consumers better online……is this the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine (ICE)?


Much has changed in a positive direction in the past 12 months, but in most European countries the uptake of electric vehicles has been below expectations. Sophus3’s new whitepaper released today looks at where and how progress has been made, and what we can learn from consumers’ online behaviour that could guide vehicle manufacturers’ efforts in this area.


The whitepaper’s highlights are detailed below:


  • Whilst overall sales of EVs remain small in Europe, growth in the latter part of 2017 saw a year-on-year increase of 60%. This was assisted by a ‘flight from diesel’ where registrations declined more than 4% in the first half of the year in the EU market
  • Both ‘sticks and carrots’ are driving this uptick. ‘Sticks’ take the form of city and regional bans of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars from January 1st 2019, ahead of nationwide bans confirmed for 2040 in the UK and France
  • Positive factors are also attracting EV sales including battery and range improvements, a greater choice of vehicles on offer, and a convergence of the total cost of ownership for an EV with that for a conventional ICE car
  • EV buying patterns are starting to mirror those of ICE cars, tracking the established peaks and troughs which suggests further ‘normalisation’ of the technology
  • Using established analysis of the ratio of visitor numbers to vehicle sales and the costs involved, Sophus3 can see that whilst EVs more easily attract consumer interest, the cost of winning a sale for the OEMs remains far higher for an EV
  • The EV customer’s online journey shows a greater hunger for information and, potentially, more openness for contact with the car brand. They also appear more disposed to undertake a test drive, yet tracking analysis shows that EV buyers remain presently in a ‘silo’ of interest, choosing to look at a limited set of ‘green models’: EVs do not yet appear within the consideration set for ‘mainstream’ car buyers
  • That said, EV buying behaviour is now ‘pragmatic’, with prospective EV buyers primarily interested in tax and cost considerations – this suggests progress from the more idealistic concerns of the ‘early adopter’ market. Car brands must therefore focus on the consumer and his/her need for information and guidance. EVs can no longer be marketed as a purchase of the heart or simply a ‘green’ choice


Scott Gairns, Sophus3 Managing Director, said: “2018 will see a fundamental shift in attitudes towards electric vehicles, from politicians, manufacturers and consumers. There will be renewed pressures from all parties to either force customers into EVs or persuade them to go electric from traditional internal combustion engines. But it won’t be easy given the variety of choice and lack of consistency in product and charging options. It is not as simple as “petrol, diesel or electric?”….yet.


“Understanding behavioural attitudes as consumers research, and increasingly buy online will be key to leveraging all opportunities. Sophus3 helps manufacturers to both understand consumer intent, and direct consumer journeys online, as we are the only analytics service with an almost total vision on automotive consumer online behaviour in Europe.”


The Sophus3 Insights whitepaper, “The end of the ICE age? – Digital insights into the electric vehicle buyer” is available for download at:


Press Contact: Mark Harrison
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