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  • Don't rely on public chargers
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EV Uptake Is Slowing Down Among Private Buyers

The rate of electric vehicle (EV) uptake among private buyers is slowing, with sales down 25% in January 2024 compared to January 2023, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

These figures were released at the same time as the SMMT published a piece celebrating the registration of the millionth EV in the UK.

Despite the decline in private buyers of EVs, sales are on the up, with registrations of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) increasing by 21% compared to the previous period. The growth in sales is exclusively led by the fleet and business industry, where demand grew by almost 42%.

Large car manufacturers are banking on battery-electric vehicles as being the future of cars, with the likes BMW asserting that EVs will overtake petrol cars in the coming years.

When it comes to private buyers, however, the SMMT expects the decline in interest to continue. The industry body has revised its forecast on the market share BEVs will take up by the end of the year, cutting expected market share down to 21.0% from the 23.3% anticipated a year ago.

The SMMT put the decline in EV sales to private buyers down to a lack of government support, and is urging the government to halve VAT on BEVs, a move that they believe will lead to a quarter of a million extra EVs being sold by 2026.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:

“Market growth is currently dependent on businesses and fleets. [The] Government must therefore use the upcoming Budget to support private EV buyers, temporarily halving VAT to cut carbon, drive economic growth and help everyone make the switch. Manufacturers have been asked to supply the vehicles, we now ask the government to help consumers buy the vehicles on which net zero depends.”

blurred view of new modern car in showroom

House of Lords says government should bring back incentives for buying EVs

News of a slowdown in EV sales to private buyers came at the same time as the House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee published a report critical of the government’s lack of action on creating incentives for Brits to buy EVs.

The committee called on the government to create new targeted grants for EV passenger cars to boost consumer uptake, stating that the high cost of EVs was often the biggest blocker to boosting uptake.

The government did have a grant for EVs, but it ended in 2022 and was not replaced by anything. Called the Plug-in car grant, the scheme took £1,500 off the cost of an EV. Given that the average EV costs upwards of £30,000, there’s some debate as to whether the Plug-in grant actually helped many people buy an EV who couldn’t otherwise have afforded one.

It’s not just the cost of EVs that are stopping people from buying them, anxiety over where to charge an EV can be a big blocker too. Not helping overcome these fears is the fact that there’s a severe lack of public charge points in some regions in the UK, and that the government failed to meet its 2023 target for EV charge points on motorways – crucial infrastructure for those making long commutes in EVs.

Not everyone can install a home EV charger, in fact, 40% of households don’t have off-street parking and would be reliant on public charging, according to the committee. This is why having readily available public charging infrastructure is crucial to increasing EV uptake.

The transition can be helped along by opening up more grants for EV charge points, especially ones targeting shared private parking spaces, such as workplaces. This is already being done, with the government recently announcing a new grant for EV charge points in schools.

The cost of charging an EV is also a sticking point for many potential buyers. It’s almost twice as expensive to charge a car in public than it is to charge it at home, a state of affairs that needlessly penalises consumers who don’t have the off-street parking space needed to house a home charger.

To narrow this gap, the Environment and Climate Change Committee is recommending that the government cut VAT from 20% to 5% on public charging, a change which they say would make public charging almost as cheap as private charging.

EVs won’t only help the UK reduced its emissions, a new report suggest electric cars can also help boost UK energy security, by decreasing our reliance on a volatile oil and gas market.

Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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