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Car buyers have lost interest in electric vehicles since the pandemic hit

Time 8 months ago

Consumers’ interest in electric vehicles has decreased since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.

New data released by the AA reveals that before the coronavirus crisis hit the UK, half of all drivers (47 per cent) said they would consider buying an electric vehicle when they next change their car.

The research, which received 17,628 responses from AA members in February 2020, also showed that drivers’ biggest problems with electric cars were still around price and charging infrastructure.

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However, new research conducted for USwitch in August suggests this interest has slowed significantly, with 11 per cent of the 2,001 UK adults surveyed saying they will be buying an EV in the next two years and 19 per cent saying they are considering buying one.

Auto Trader added that its data showed that interest in electric vehicles had dropped considerably since the lockdown.

In a study of its marketplace in August, it found that only four per cent were considering an EV compared with 16 per cent pre-coronavirus.

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said: ‘We closely observe the live retail market and over recent months we have seen a steady reversal in the supply-and-demand trends for AFVs that had begun to emerge.

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‘Over the past year, consumer demand has outweighed supply. However, since the emergence of Covid-19, we have seen this trend reverse. Whilst supply levels have remained relatively constant, consumer demand has eased, which has been a contributing factor to over six months of consecutive year-on-year price decline for AFVs.

‘This compares to an accelerated rate of growth for petrol cars, where prices have grown consistently per month since April, topping 6.8 per cent in August.’

The AA research also found that women (49 per cent) were more likely to consider an electric car for their next purchase than men (46 per cent), and young people aged 18 to 24 were the most likely to say they’d consider an EV, with 60 per cent of this age group indicating an interest.

Electric cars being too expensive was a statement agreed with by 89 per cent of people surveyed and 72 per cent agreed that charging took too long.

Edmund King, AA president, said: ‘The automotive world is going through a radical transition with more change likely in the next decade than in the last hundred years. We need to help drivers overcome perceived myths about EVs and charging.

‘It is incredibly encouraging that almost half of drivers will consider an EV for their next car. Our AA breakdown data also shows that EVs are more reliable, but when breakdowns occur they are similar to breakdowns on conventional cars, with tyres, wheels and the 12-volt battery accounting for about one-third of problems.’

A new study called Accelerating the EVolution, released today by Castrol, has found that on average for UK consumers the tipping point will be when electric vehicles reach £24,000, have a charge time of 30 minutes and range of 282 miles from a single charge for mainstream adoption.

However, the research estimates that the EV market in the UK could be worth £13bn by 2023, if all three tipping points are met.

Plummer added: ‘Since cost is the primary consideration for most car buyers, the upfront retail price of EVs is somewhat off-putting, but what many don’t consider or understand is the cost savings that can be made during the total ownership period.

‘Low running costs can often balance out higher retail values over time. That said, the successful adoption of EVs has been accelerated in countries where governments have offered meaningful incentives to help offset larger retail prices, whereas our government has steadily reduced incentives which has inevitably led to a decline in interest and therefore sales.

‘In order for this trend to reverse, we need the government to step up their support and increase the monetary incentives and the positive rhetoric of owning an EV.’

Close Brothers Motor Finance managing director Seán Kemple commented that the pandemic meant car dealers stopped prioritising green credentials.

He said: ‘In recent months, the shift to electric has been deprioritised for car dealers as they were forced to shut down shop in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

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‘While the sector is bouncing back, dealers are now focused on getting buyers the keys to their next car and adapting to a very different retail environment. But the coming months are also an opportunity for the industry to build back better, a part of which will be building back, but greener.

‘As people are continuing to turn away from public transport and look for alternative ways to travel, the car market is seeing a boost. Coupled with growing environmental consciousness and a looming diesel ban, demand for AFVs is likely to continue rising, and dealers have a chance to capitalise on this.

‘Government support will also be vital in shaping the recovery of the sector and develop infrastructure to facilitate the shift the electric.’

Rebecca Chaplin

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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