Analysts at BuyaCar have identified a consistent trend during 2021 which sees EVs appearing to eat into the share of diesel searches.
Tracking hundreds of thousands of searches in which site visitors actively specify a fuel type, they detect an apparent drift from diesel toward EVs, while interest in petrol cars is unchanged.
Historically, searches for EVs on BuyaCar have been somewhat inconsistent and seemingly reactive to news headlines. For example, they spiked last year when Boris Johnson announced that the banning of new petrol and diesel cars would be brought forward by a decade. But soon after the headlines faded, so did the apparent surge in searches for electric as a fuel type.
However, the pattern has changed this year, revealing consistent increases in drivers actively choosing electric in searches - along with almost precisely matching reductions in diesel as a choice. Hybrid searches are also increasing at a similar rate.
In Quarter 1 the share of searches for EVs and hybrids were 6.58% and 14.24% respectively. In Quarter 2 those rose to 7.62% and 15.79%. During the same period searches for diesels took an 8% lower share, while petrol slipped by just 1.3%.
Quarter 3 so far (to August 16th) has seen EV search share rise again to 8.68% - a proportionate 14% increase on Quarter 2's figure. Hybrids have grown their share of searches at a slightly lower pace, by 4%. But diesel has again slipped by a further 6.3%. Notably, the share of searches specifying petrol as a fuel type remained the same at 51.87% of all searches.
BuyaCar analysts say that the consistency of the increase in searches specifying electric and the reduction in those for diesel indicates a possible drift away from diesel toward electric power.
Christofer Lloyd, editor of BuyaCar, said: "Because most drivers have historically been wary of committing to driving an EV, search figures often seemed to reflect external events rather than a consistent level of demand.
"For example, many more car buyers than usual began to search for electric car options in the immediate aftermath of Boris Johnson's announcement of the ban on selling new cars with internal combustion engines from 2030. But that increase in interest was a short-lived spike which ended after just a few days.
"However, we do now seem to be seeing a much less dramatic but consistent increase over time in 2021.
"What is perhaps most interesting about these figures is the implication that while petrol is holding steady in the minds of car buyers, the increase in EV-curiosity is coming at the expense of diesel, rather than across the board.
"While EVs remain a niche area in the mass market for cars, these figures do indicate that they are increasingly at the forefront of buyers' minds during at least the research phase when they are looking to change their car."