05 Oct 2023
 | 05 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Early opportunity signals of a tipping point in the UK’s second-hand electric vehicle market

Chris A. Boulton, Joshua E. Buxton, and Timothy M. Lenton

Abstract. The use of early warning signals to detect the movement of natural systems towards tipping points is well established. Here, we explore whether the same indicators can provide early opportunity signals (EOS) of a tipping point in a social dataset – views of online electric vehicle (EV) adverts from a UK car selling website (2018–2023). The daily share of EV adverts views (versus non-EV adverts) is small but increasing overall and responds to specific external events, including abrupt petrol/diesel price increases, by spiking upwards before returning to a quasi-equilibrium state. An increasing return time observed over time indicates a loss of resilience of the incumbent state dominated by ICEV advert views. View share also exhibits increases in lag-1 autocorrelation and variance consistent with hypothesised movement towards a tipping point to an EV-dominated market. Segregating the viewing data by price range and year, we find a change in viewing habits from 2023. Trends in EOS from EV advert views in low-mid price ranges provide evidence that these sectors of the market may have passed a tipping point, consistent with other evidence that second-hand EVs recently reached price parity with equivalent ICEV models. We provide a case study of how EOS can be used to predict the movement towards tipping in social systems using novel data.

Chris A. Boulton et al.

Status: open (until 21 Dec 2023)

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Chris A. Boulton et al.

Chris A. Boulton et al.


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Short summary
Early warning signals (EWS) of tipping points (TP), are used to detect resilience loss in the incumbent regime of ICEVs, towards an electric vehicle (EV) dominated state. View share of EV ads on a UK car selling platform shows evidence of approaching a TP, with results suggesting low-mid price ranges may have passed it, likely due to achieved price parity between EVs and non-EVs in sectors of the second-hand market, showing that EWS of positive TPs are possible in social-technological systems.