8 in 10 drivers think electric cars are too expensive

Electric Vehicles

Nearly eight-in-10 drivers (78%) think that pure electric cars are still too expensive when compared to conventional vehicles of a similar size, though a steadily increasing proportion are planning to choose one when they next change their car, research from the latest RAC Report on Motoring shows.

Nine per cent of the 3,000 respondents to the study said they intended to ‘go electric’ next time around, up from 6% in 2019 and 3% a year earlier, clearly highlighting drivers’ growing willingness to opt for a zero-emissions model. But with the current retail price of new pure battery electric vehicles significantly higher than their petrol or diesel-powered equivalents, they remain out of many drivers’ price ranges, prompting most to say they would like more financial help from the Government.

More than half of drivers (53%) said they would like to see VAT on zero-emission vehicles either cut or abolished entirely, with a slightly smaller proportion (48%) favouring a scrappage scheme to make switching from a conventionally powered one to a battery-electric model affordable. Three-in-10 motorists (30%) favour an increase to the current Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) of £1,000, taking it up to £4,000, which is arguably the most straightforward policy change the Government could implement if it chose to.

Making vehicles more affordable for drivers is not the only thing that could entice drivers into a pure electric model next time around. Motorists also want to know they can charge these vehicles up easily when they are away from home, something that will be vital for the estimated third for whom home-charging is not an option.

More than four-in-10 drivers (43%) say they want the Government to set a binding national target for access to public chargepoints, such as ensuring 95% of the population live no further than five miles from the nearest chargepoint. Three-in-10 (28%) meanwhile believe the price of charging at public chargers should be capped.

For the second year running, drivers said they would want a car to have a range of some 375 miles – roughly the distance from Cambridge to Edinburgh – yet RAC analysis shows the average stated basic range of the top 10 pure electric cars sold in the UK stands at 235 miles. Only one model offers a range of 375 miles and upwards on a single charge.

More broadly, the pandemic appears to have left its mark on the car-buying public, with only one in every 10 motorists (11%) expecting to upgrade to another vehicle in the next 12 months – a sharp fall on the 14% recorded in 2019 and 18% a year earlier. But perhaps even more telling is the finding that just over half of drivers (51%) do not expect to change their current vehicle within the next three years – well up on the last year’s 43%, and 35% in 2018. Meanwhile, a third of drivers (33%) in 2020 either don’t plan to get a new car, or do not know when they will replace their current vehicle, up from 25% a year ago.


Says RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis:

“With 2030 now clearly set as the date for the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, momentum behind getting more of us into electric vehicles (‘EVs’) is building – and it’s clear that an increasing proportion of drivers are responding, with nearly one-in-10 now planning to opt for a pure electric next time they change their car.

“But the single biggest barrier to a driver choosing an electric car over one powered by petrol or diesel has to be cost. Although good finance leasing deals and offers such as free home charging for a set period can help, it appears to be the case that the price of many new EVs remains prohibitively high for a lot of people, with most drivers keen to see more financial help from the Government to bring costs down.

Adds Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? 

“While the comparatively higher cost of buying an electric car is expected to reduce in the coming years, the government should do what it can to support people in switching to a zero-emission vehicle.

“Charging an electric car can be complicated and costly for those who don’t have the ability to charge at home. The government should help make the public charging network larger, simpler and much more accessible than it is today to encourage the uptake of electric cars by UK consumers.” 


Chris Price
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