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Local Authority EV Toolkit

Our advice on how to deliver a community engagement campaign

Many of the lessons learnt in the business engagement campaign section can be applied to those focusing more on the consumer market. Our experience shows that selecting the right delivery method is important – do you focus on targeting schools, road users, specific communities etc.? It could be a combination of one, several or all of the stakeholder groups to achieve your specific aim.

Although the messages are very similar and the outcomes may be the same, specifically when promoting the use of more sustainable and active travel modes, it is often more difficult to engage with the general public. There is not the added support from employers or the focussed engagement opportunities of the workplace that business engagement activities offer. While many of the activities and events are very similar there is a far wider and more diverse community of people to engage with.

We’ve put together some of our top tips to help you build a strong strategy.

Oxford EV Summit 2019 Tom Hayes

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Look at what others have done, and the wealth of examples and resources that are out there for you to use as a reference point. and the Energy Saving Trust website has a number of resources that can be used to help explain the benefits of electric vehicles. Further useful information is available on the UK Government website: Common misconceptions about electric vehicles (accessible web version) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Be clear with your messaging

Try to be straight to the point with your messaging. The industry is full of acronyms and technical language that most everyday consumers won’t understand, so make it jargon-free. It is easy to forget that we often operate in an ‘EV Bubble’ where we talk about, and discuss, this industry all the time, but in reality most people have never even sat in an electric vehicle, let alone driven or considered buying one. Focus on the facts and figures around the environmental benefits and financial incentives in any promotional material.

As EV uptake has increased in recent years it is now easier than ever to invite EV owners and drivers to attend events and share their experiences. Whilst it helps to have experts on hand to answer questions, hearing from another member of the community is a great way to help the wider community understand the benefits.

Check your facts

Nothing will break the trust more with consumers than facts or figures that are unclear or have ambiguity. Also remember that there are a lot of experts out there who have spent their own time researching the pros and cons of privately owning an electric vehicle, or the ins and out of how green they really are. Do some research and ensure that you are using trusted sources.

There are regularly stories in the news regarding EVs and access to EV charging, whilst it is important to be aware of potential issues it is also important to ensure that you check all facts and are able to respond to any concerns, genuine or otherwise, that this may raise amongst local residents – particularly if you are taking part in EV info events or promotional activities. Websites such as Green Car Guide, Fully Charged and Plug Life are good sources of more balanced views.

Focus on charging

Increasingly, EV chargepoints installed in the very early days of the development of public EV charging infrastructure are being replaced with new and more reliable equipment; Gridserve is currently in the process of upgrading and expanding the provision of DC rapid charging on the motorway network and we have seen the provision of public infrastructure increase four-fold since 2016 to over 38,000 at the end of February 2023 with the rate of increase growing on an almost daily basis.

To ensure success, it will be important to understand current provision in your region and, importantly, there is a need to be aware that different user groups will have different charging demands. Residents will generally be able to make good and economical use of lower powered AC charging overnight whereas other groups such as taxi drivers, car club vehicles and van fleet drivers are likely to need rapid DC charging – albeit not for every charging cycle.

In addition, research suggests that if we consider the installation of private home EV charging and workplace charging (which increasingly employers are delivering) there is an estimated 400,000 chargepoints across the UK. Organisations such Co-Charger and Zap Home enable owners of home chargepoints to rent them out to other EV drivers which further adds to the available network of public EV charging.

Include local measures

No doubt you are doing other activities in the authority to tackle air quality issues, so shout about them in any campaign to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles. There may also be other incentives in the local area that help make the case for a consumer to switch to an ultra-low emission vehicle. If you haven’t already, make sure that they are included in the Local EV Incentives tool , you can view a map of all the incentives currently available across England.

Use engaging social media

Consumers want to hear from other consumers, so find out if there are local social media groups, EV owners clubs or EV fan clubs in your local area (we can pretty much guarantee there will be one somewhere close to you; there always is) and use them to your advantage. In Nottingham and in Brighton and Hove, the City Council actively works with the ‘EV Champions’ group to promote the use of EVs in everyday life. Nottingham City Council has even made a video to promote uptake. Watch it here.

There are many EV owner groups and forums that will also be useful source of information and advice for potential EV users. The EV Groups Nexus is a good source of information on local EV owner groups, they all have a strong presence on social media platforms.

Be prepared for tough questions

As we’ve mentioned, you’re going to face a lot of ‘experts’ out there, especially on social media. Be prepared to answer the tough questions and defend why you are promoting the uptake of electric vehicles. Many consumers forget that, ultimately, these vehicles are a way of tackling NOx and PM emissions in towns and cities to prevent premature deaths from poor air quality. Answer their concerns honestly and openly, and try to reference your answers where possible. It’s also useful to capture the barriers to make sure you can address them in future communications campaigns.

High Street Case Studies

Don’t forget about the power of the High Street! Below are two case studies of activities led by a Council that have engaged consumers whilst going about their normal shopping:

  • In Milton Keynes the EV Experience Centre is the UK’s first brand-neutral centre dedicated to electric vehicles with the aim of providing completely free education and advice about electric and plug-in vehicles. Based in centre:mk at the heart of Milton Keynes, the centre also offers visitors the chance to test drive a range of different electric and plug-in cars on the market. More information is available here.
  • Nottingham City Council agreed a partnership with the intu Victoria Centre, the largest shopping centre in Nottingham, to run a four-day display in the centre walkway showcasing different types of ultra-low emission vehicles, offering independent advice and support on electric vehicles and offering test drives in the centre car park.

More in the toolkit…