EVs: Half of UK carbuyers still think 2035 too soon to switch

Published:  07 September, 2020

Almost half of UK motorists don’t feel ready to make the switch to an electric vehicle by 2035, a new survey from the SMMT has suggested.

While EVs now account 17% of the models on sale,  they currently make up just 8% of purchases. The survey performed by Savanta ComRes on behalf of the SMMT, found that 44% don’t think they will be ready by 2035, with 24% saying that they do not ever see themselves owning one.

In February, the government announced that the sale of all hybrid, petrol and diesel cars would be banned from 2035, but the survey suggests that carbuyer wariness might make this difficult without significant infrastructure investment and buyer inducements.

Of those who could see themselves making the leap under the right circumstances, 52% are currently being held back by higher purchase prices, while 44% cited the lack of local charging points, with a further 38% concerned about being caught short on longer journeys. However, 37% said they were optimistic about buying a full EV as early as 2025.

Demand for EVs has more than doubled over the last year, and the period has seen massive industry investment in the segment, worth £54 billion in 2019 alone. Over the last 12 months, the number of plug-in hybrid and full electric models has leapt from 62 to 83, with more scheduled for launch in the coming months.

However, analysis by the SMMT and Frost and Sullivan also shows that a full, zero emission-capable UK new car market will require 1.7 million public charge points by the end of the decade and 2.8 million by 2035. Today, there are just 19,314 on-street charge points today, so there is a need for 507 on-street chargers to be installed every day until 2035 at a cost of £16.7 billion.

The SMMT is calling for a long-term commitment to incentives, including the continuation of the Plug-in Grant and its re-introduction for plug-in hybrids, as well as a national strategic plan to increase the number of charge points and ensure the right type of chargers are in the right places. The organisation is also pushing for more support for local authorities, with guidance on planning permission and technical standards, and a multi-sector strategy and roadmap with targets for incentives, infrastructure and energy provision, alongside positive consumer messages on all technology choices.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes commented: “Car makers are leading the charge to zero emission motoring, with massive investment in new models fueling huge consumer interest but they can’t transform the market alone. To give consumers confidence to take the leap into these technologies, we need government and other sectors to step up and match manufacturers’ commitment by investing in the incentives and infrastructure needed to power our electric future.

“Manufacturers are working hard to make zero and ultra-low emissions the norm and are committed to working with government to accelerate the shift to net zero – but obstacles remain. Until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and operate as conventional cars, we risk the UK being in the slow lane, undermining industry investment and holding back progress.”

The range of zero emission-capable vehicles currently available to UK buyers was on display last week at a special test drive event hosted at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. SMMT Drive Zero brought together more than 20 car and van brands, as well as consumers, politicians, government officials and media all keen to get into the latest EV models.

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