Over the past week, the United Kingdom has been hit by an automotive fuel shortage that’s leaving some filling stations with no option but to turn customers away. While that’s leading to gridlock and traffic jams at filling stations as drivers panic buy fuel, it’s also having another, more unexpected outcome: it’s driving interest in electric cars and public transport.
According to figures compiled by UK newspaper, the Evening Standard, web searches for electric cars in the UK have soared over 1,500% the past week. As fuel shortages worsened and filling station closed, more and more Brits turned to the internet seemingly to learn more about cars that don’t rely on combustible fuel.
Indeed, Google Trends data confirms that searches for EVs are at an all-time high, reaching a peak on September 26.
Related queries show that British drivers are also interested in Kia, Mazda, and Hyundai electric cars. Searches for information on the UK’s electric car grant and “cheapest electric car” are on the rise too, suggesting that more price conscious car buyers are starting to wake up to the possibility of going electric.
Clearly, the pains of having to visit a filling station are starting to weigh on combustion engine car drivers, and the notion of simply plugging in at home. Of course, some have concerns about whether the energy grid will be able to service a future where everyone drives electric cars, but right now, that’s another conversation.
In the short term, the fuel crisis is also encouraging drivers to leave their cars at home and take to public transport in an attempt to preserve their fuel for when they really need it, Metro reports.
As fuel availability returns to normal in the UK, we should also expect driving trends to return to normal as well, but that won’t be forever.
The petrol and diesel shortage has shown how people are willing to investigate and use other forms of transport when required, making a future that’s built on multi-modal transport models seem like a likely reality.
If you’re not based in the UK or aren’t following what’s happening, here’s a quick recap.
According to the BBC, the petrol shortage started late last week, around September 24 when oil giant BP warned it would have to close filling stations as there weren’t enough truck drivers to deliver fuel to the pumps.
Estimates suggest there’s a shortcoming of 100,000 drivers. Indeed, it’s not just automotive fuel that’s been hit, supply chains for supermarkets and restaurants are also affected.
It’s not that there’s not enough fuel being produced, rather the lack of truck drivers is making it a more laborious task than normal to restock filling stations around the nation.
The shortages were reported by media and panic buying followed. Urban filling stations experienced long queues as drivers panic bought fuel. To allay the shortages, the UK is now looking to deploy military truck drivers to transport fuel and service demand.
On Wednesday, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told reporters, "We've seen large queues but I think the situation is stabilizing."