Half of UK buyers 'think 2035 too soon' for electric vehicle switch

Kalila Sangster
·4 mins read
A black London taxi uses an electric car charging point in London as the SMMT calls for a national, multi-sector strategy led by government to support the switch to low-emission vehicles. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA
A black London taxi uses an electric car charging point in London as the SMMT calls for a national, multi-sector strategy led by government to support the switch to low-emission vehicles. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Almost half of UK drivers think 2035 is too soon for the UK to switch to electric vehicles, according to a new survey commissioned by car industry chiefs.

The UK government is planning to ban sales of new diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles from 2035, as part of its pledge to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

44% of UK drivers surveyed said they would be ready to switch to a low-emission vehicle by 2035, but 24% said they could not see themselves ever owning one.

Over half (52%) of motorists said higher purchase prices for electric vehicles are is the main reason dissuading them from making the switch. A lack of local charging points (44%) and fear of being caught short on longer journeys (38%) are also factors putting drivers off.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which commissioned the poll, is calling on the government to commit to binding targets on infrastructure for charging electric cars, and for long-term incentives to encourage Brits to purchase electric vehicles.

These include the continuation of the Plug-in Grant, which gave buyers a discount of up to £3000 on the price of brand new low-emission vehicles, and its re-introduction for plug-in hybrids.

READ MORE: 12 million Brits thinking of buying an electric car, saving drivers £8bn in fuel

The SMMT says this commitment, alongside VAT exemptions for all zero emission capable cars, would reduce the upfront price of a family car by an average £5,500 for battery electric cars and £4,750 for plug-in hybrids, and for an SUV by £9,750 and £8,000 respectively.

This would make the price of low-emission vehicles more comparable with petrol and diesel equivalents, according to the SMMT.

The industry trade body said it could drive some 2.4 million sales over the next five years, taking the market share of electric vehicles to an estimated 28% by 2025 compared with 8% today.

A full, zero-emission-capable UK new car market will require 1.7 million public charge points by 2030 and 2.8 million by 2035, according to analysis by the organisation and Frost and Sullivan.

There are currently 19,314 on-street charge points in the UK. The SMMT estimates that 507 on-street chargers need to be installed every day until 2035 at a cost of £16.7bn, to satisfy demand.

The UK government has already paid out £1.7bn in purchase grants or earmarked budgets from 2011 to 2023, and has committed £500m to the Project Rapid motorway charging network and a £200m investment fund for public charging network expansion.

But the SMMT says this isn’t enough and is calling for a national, multi-sector strategy led by the government with binding infrastructure targets, and delivered by local authorities, charging providers and energy companies.

They want the government to commit to a national strategic plan delivered locally to raise the number of chargepoints and ensure the right type of chargers are in the right places, a multi-sector strategy and roadmap with targets for incentives, infrastructure and energy provision, and all public chargepoints to be available for all users.

READ MORE: Top 10 used car models Brits are buying during the pandemic

The SMMT is also calling for support for industrial transition, to retain, grow and transform auto manufacturing in the UK and attract new investment by upskilling the workforce, investing in battery gigafactories, supply chain development and strategic R&D investment at a globally competitive level.

A third (37%) of UK drivers are optimistic about buying a fullly electric vehicle by 2025, with 41% attracted by lower running costs and 29% by a chance to improve the environment.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Car makers are leading the charge to zero emission motoring, with massive investment in new models fuelling huge consumer interest but they can’t transform the market alone.

“To give consumers confidence to take the leap into these technologies, we need government and other sectors to step up and match manufacturers’ commitment by investing in the incentives and infrastructure needed to power our electric future.

“Manufacturers are working hard to make zero and ultra-low emissions the norm and are committed to working with government to accelerate the shift to net zero — but obstacles remain. Until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and operate as conventional cars, we risk the UK being in the slow lane, undermining industry investment and holding back progress.”