Warning to chancellor as a third of UK drivers say they will never go electric

According to new research by Auto Trader, the leading British automotive classified advertising business, a third of all drivers in the UK claim they will never switch to an electric vehicle (EV). This is despite the Government’s long-term ambitions to replace petrol and diesel cars on Britain’s roads.

Auto Trader surveyed 1,467 drivers of petrol/diesel vehicles between February 23 and March 3. They found that with affordability the biggest barrier to EV adoption, drivers have also urged the Chancellor to offer more generous financial support to aid the switch to greener vehicles ahead of today’s Budget, the findings show.

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When asked what factors would make them switch, the survey by the UK’s biggest online vehicle marketplace found 32% of drivers never intend to buy to an EV regardless of the incentives offered.

A further 30% of respondents said cutting the upfront cost of EVs was the most important factor in encouraging switching, with a new EV typically 36% more expensive than a petrol or diesel equivalent according to Auto Trader’s latest Road to 2030 report.

One of the UK’s most affordable and most popular EVs  – the MG ZS Electric – cost almost £8,400 more than its conventionally-fuelled equivalent at £25,465. A market shift over the past five years, with a growing consumer preference for SUVs and also a bigger share of EVs for sale, has also pushed up the average cost of a new car overall by £12,000 to over £39,000 over that time, according to Auto Trader data.

A further 11% called for a scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel vehicles to help cut the cost of an EV, while 7% said cheaper public EV charging would also encourage them to make the switch. At present, not only are public charger rates significantly higher than private users can find, particularly when using off-peak rates, VAT is also charged at 20% on public charging points, compared with a VAT rate of just 5% for those able to charge their cars at home.

EVs are typically £87 per 1000 miles cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars, although the Chancellor is widely expected to extend last year’s 12-month 5p a litre fuel duty cut following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increasing the appeal of petrol and diesel. Auto Trader’s survey revealed nearly half (47%) would resist going electric even after a rise in fuel tax.

The Chancellor announced in November’s autumn statement that electric vehicles will also become liable to vehicle excise duty from 2025. This further reduces the financial benefits to drivers and dampens potential demand. This is in contrast to previous years when the Government encouraged switching by offering various financial incentives.

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader commercial director, said: “We are now less than seven years away from the banning of new petrol and diesel sales in the UK under the Government’s 2030 ambitions, so it is extremely worrying that a third of drivers say they will simply never switch.

“The market suffers from a lack of affordable EV models, which new entrants this year should begin to address over time, but there are also concerns over the charging network too. 

“If we want to deliver on ambitions for a greener, fairer society then ministers should be ready to use the tax system to incentivise drivers to make sure they achieve their goals – and cutting 20% VAT on public charging would be a good start.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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