UK drivers don’t plan on buying an electric car for almost a decade

Research from Auto Trader shows that many drivers are looking to move away from petrol and diesel cars but lack of charging infrastructure and confusing terminology remain significant barriers to electric car adoption among UK drivers. Drivers say they will wait an average of nine years to buy an electric car; drivers are split as to whether the proposed 2040 ban is a positive thing – with 40 per cent each in favour and against; and 74 per cent did not know that the government offers plug-in grants for buyers of electric and hybrid vehicles.

With the long-awaited publication of the Government’s Road to Zero report last month, new research carried out by the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace, Auto Trader, indicates that many consumers (38 per cent) remain unaware of policy regarding electric cars and believe the government’s goal for at least 50 per cent of new cars sold to be electric by 2030 is unrealistic.

Drivers said that they’ll wait nine years before they will buy an electric or hybrid vehicle, with lack of charging infrastructure and upfront expense cited as the most common impediments, even though research indicates that electric cars cost less over four years. With drivers changing cars on average every 2-3 years, this means that they will likely purchase three cars before buying an EV. Only 26 per cent would consider electric for their next car, the same percentage as when Auto Trader surveyed consumers in March 2017.

Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low says: “Drivers making the switch are already reaping the benefits. EVs can be driven for as little as 2p per mile, compared with 10-12p for a conventionally-powered vehicle, meaning the typical car owner can save hundreds of pounds every year in fuel costs alone. There are also additional savings such as tax benefits and reduced servicing and maintenance costs.

“Although charging is one of the biggest barriers to mass consumer uptake, almost half of motorists drive less than 15 miles a day, while 98 per cent said they travel less than 100 – well within the range of pure electric vehicles and easily achievable in a plug-in hybrid. What’s more, charging data also shows more than 90 per cent of all EV charging takes place at home, bringing added convenience for drivers.”

In general, consumers are increasingly mindful of the environmental impact of cars, with 56 per cent of respondents saying that they care more about fuel types than they did 12 months ago. Negative press around diesel cars has impacted their appeal among consumers, with half (52 per cent) of those surveyed admitting that news reports have made them more likely to consider purchasing an alternative fuel car, including electric. This is supported by consumers performing less searches for diesel cars and more for alternative fuel types (AFVs) on Auto Trader’s marketplace – diesel now only accounts for 47 per cent of searches as of June 2018, down from its peak of 72 per cent in June 2018, and interest in AFVs has grown from 2 per cent to 4 per cent over the same time period

So, what is needed to persuade consumers to make the switch to electric? Drivers are split as to whether the proposed ban is a positive thing – with 40 per cent for and against a ban. And it seems existing government incentives aren’t helping buyers to make the switch either as 74 per cent of those surveyed did not know that the government offers plug-in grants for buyers of electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition to upscaling public charging infrastructure, there needs to be a clear roadmap outlined by the government and industry leaders to reassure consumers. The fact that drivers are prepared to wait almost a decade suggests many are holding out for greater technological capabilities, including increased mileage per charge and more efficient batteries. Auto Trader’s findings also reveal that the terminology surrounding electric vehicles, which 55 per cent describe as ‘confusing’, is another obstacle.

Auto Trader’s editorial director, Erin Baker, says of the findings: “There’s no doubt that electric vehicles are the future, however, our research indicates that there are still significant barriers to adoption, with greater investment in infrastructure and technology needed. It’s also crucial that car manufacturers and the government alike ensure that language to describe electric cars is clear and accessible, rather than laden with technological jargon that consumers may find alienating.”

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