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Is interest in electric cars falling?

New research suggests the number of people considering an EV has waned since the coronavirus pandemic began

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Interest in electric cars has declined since the coronavirus pandemic hit, new research suggests.

In February, a survey of more than 17,000 motorists by the AA found 47% would consider an electric vehicle when they next change their car.

However, new research suggests that number has dwindled since lockdown. A survey of 2,000 UK adults by USwitch in August found just 19% of car buyers are considering an EV, with 11% expecting to buy one in the next two years.

Meanwhile, online classifieds site Auto Trader said searches for electric vehicles had declined, with just 4% looking for an EV in August compared with 16% before lockdown.

Auto Trader claims that since the beginning of the lockdown period, demand for low emission vehicles has fallen below levels of supply. It suggests car buyers are reverting to the type of vehicles they are familiar with and what they consider to be the most affordable choice, namely petrol and diesel cars.

In August, the average price of used electric vehicles advertised on Auto Trader was £25,880, a 5% decline on the same period last year, and the highest rate of contraction since November 2015. In comparision, the average price of used petrol and diesel cars has been increasing as demand outpaces supply.

New car sales contradict research

However, despite the findings, sales of new electric cars have been booming. At the end of July, there had been 8,162 EV registrations in 2020, an increase of almost 175% compared with the same period in 2020 – despite dealers being forced to close for more than two months during lockdown. That represents a jump in market share from 1% to almost 5%. August new car registration figures are due to be published tomorrow, but are expected to show a similar pattern.

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said: “Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, and 12 million drivers could soon be swapping their petrol or diesel car for a more environmentally friendly one.

“The good news for these drivers is that EVs come with an additional financial benefit too — they cost far less to fuel than a petrol or diesel car.

“However, charging costs can vary depending on your energy tariff. If you are still on your supplier’s Standard Variable Tariff, charging your car could cost an additional £7.69 a month unless you switch to a more competitive fixed-term deal.”

An unwelcome turn

We know that household budgets have been stressed by the coronavirus pandemic, and that large numbers of the population are concerned about their finances in the short-to-medium term.

One of the key advantages of an electric car over a petrol or diesel equivalent is the low running costs. But if your car is spending more time than normal parked on your driveway, the running costs are much less important.

Both the government and the car manufacturers need people to buy electric cars in much greater numbers to help them to hit their legally-binding emissions targets, so waning interest is not good news. it’s likely that this is a temporary blip along the pathway to an electric future, but it suggests that more effort needs to be made to win over a cautious public and help them make the switch to electric power.
Stuart Masson, Editor

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Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.