Electric vehicle (EV) demand increases as prices at the pumps in the UK reach record highs

The price of petrol and diesel continues to increase in the UK, once again sparking further interest in electric vehicles (EVs). According to the findings from Auto Trader’s latest Road to 2030 report, the current fuel crisis and rocket prices at the pumps continues to ignite consumer interest in driving electric vehicles.  

Auto Trader saw a huge spike during the autumn’s fuel shortage crisis. The proportion of electric cars viewed on its marketplace had dropped from a high of 26 percent in late September 2021 when the petrol crisis took hold, to just 16 percent in February.

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Since prices at the pumps started to rocket, so has consumer interest. Over the past week alone, consumers are conducting 27 percent more advert views for new electric vehicles than they were the previous week. These now account for 20 percent of all advert views.

Last year, the electric vehicle industry made good progress with the sale accounting for 11.6 percent of all new car sales last year. This was driven, in part, by manufacturers offering more choice than ever before, with four times as many new electric models available (75) on Auto Trader compared to 2020. As well as investing significantly more in driving consumer awareness.

Auto Trader also announced that 44 percent of all brand advertising spent on its website last year was to promote electric vehicles, which was up three times over the previous year.

Interest in electric vehicles saw significant growth on Auto Trader throughout 2021, with the share of new car advert views increasing from just six percent in January to 18 percent at the beginning of September, before rocketing  to 26 percent in response to the fuel shortage crisis.

As the queues at the pumps subsided, so too did the proportion of electric cars viewed on its marketplace, falling to just 16 percent in February. However, as motorists start to the pinch again with record-high fuel prices and rising living costs, demand has again begun to climb.

Just last week the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) announced figures for February’s new registrations that showed battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations in the UK for February saw a 196.3 percent increase compared to the same month in 2021. This accounted for an impressive 17.7 of the UK’s new car market.

The Auto Trader report also found that 55 percent of those looking at a potential electric vehicle purchase have incomes above £50,000. This is higher than the 37 percent of Auto Trader’s overall audience in that bracket, which is reflective of society. More than half (56 percent) of electric viewers were aged 45 or over, compared to 45 percent of the marketplace’s audience overall.

Whilst there are more electric models available than ever before, the report highlights the huge disparity with fossil-fuelled vehicles, with buyers able to choose from four times as many new internal combustion engine (ICE) models as electric vehicles.

This disparity in choice only increases in the lower price brackets. The number of electric vehicle models priced under £20,000 dropped from 11 in 2020 to just three in 2021.

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s commercial director, said: “With fuel prices at record levels, and only set to increase over the coming months, there’s a clear opportunity for the industry – information and education on the lower running costs of EVs have never been more important.

“Our analysis shows that EV owners can save £140 every 1,000 miles (1610km), which is up on the £100 we recorded just a few months ago – it’s this level of detail on cost savings that will be key to softening the impact of the green premium and bringing EVs into line with their petrol or diesel equivalents.”

Auto Trader believes that incentives are also key to driving adoption, as they help average earners cover the upfront cost and stimulate the demand needed to make affordable electric vehicle production commercially viable.

However, the limited financial incentives on offer to UK motorists are set to be withdrawn altogether, with the Electric Vehicle Homecharge contribution coming to an end in April for most homeowners, the Plug-in Car Grant ending in 2023 and the benefit-in-kind tax break set to stop in 2025.

As a result, Auto Trader believes there need to be more incentives to give EV owners a variety of benefits over internal combustion engine vehicles from tax exemptions, to grants and from driving zone benefits or bus lane use to free parking.

Plummer concluded:We need to see EVs become genuinely attainable for everyone, not just the wealthiest car buyer, with sufficient model and price point options that meet every need.

“We firmly believe, that realising this objective will require an increase in Information, Investment and Incentives from industry and Government with collaboration between the two. Unless these areas are addressed, the road to 2030 is at risk.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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