The Challenges Facing the Electric Car Industry in the UK

The UK government has committed to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, with a mandate for manufacturers to increase the proportion of electric car sales. However, despite an overall increase in sales of electric cars, there are challenges to overcome in order to achieve widespread adoption.

Sales of electric cars to corporate buyers have been strong, thanks to favorable tax incentives. However, sales to private buyers have declined in the first half of this year compared to the previous year. This suggests that electric cars are not yet appealing to the average consumer. Higher purchase prices, limited range, long recharge times, and a lack of charging infrastructure are all factors discouraging private buyers.

The market for electric cars has primarily been dominated by wealthy early adopters who can afford them as second cars. However, selling electric cars to a wider audience, particularly to the quarter of UK households without off-street parking, presents a new challenge. Without convenient access to charging stations at home, these consumers are less likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle.

While there is hope that affordable electric cars with longer ranges and faster charging times will become available in the future, the government’s current timeline for phasing out hybrid cars by 2035 disincentivizes the development of hybrid technology. Hybrids can serve as a gradual transition towards fully electric vehicles and cater to consumers’ concerns about range and charging infrastructure.

One potential solution would be to allow electric cars with small petrol engines as range extenders. These engines would recharge the batteries on longer journeys, making electric vehicles more practical for a wider range of motorists. By reducing the reliance on large battery capacities, the cost of electric cars could be lowered as well.

Although electric cars with range extenders are being developed in other markets, there is currently only one available in the UK. To encourage the mass adoption of electric cars, the government should consider relaxing the ban on hybrids and support the development of vehicles that can sell themselves in the mainstream market.

In conclusion, while the UK government is committed to a net-zero future, the challenges of affordability, range anxiety, charging infrastructure, and availability of electric cars for consumers without off-street parking need to be addressed. Relaxing the ban on hybrids and promoting the development of range-extending electric cars could help accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in the UK.

– Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)