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Almost 37,000 plug-in electric cars registered in the UK in 2016

UK low emission cars

UK low emission cars

The UK is currently the EU’s biggest market for plug-in electric cars, with 36,917 registered in 2016, and there are currently 83 different alternatively-fuelled cars and vans available to British buyers.

The UK automotive sector demonstrated its commitment to developing the latest low emission vehicles during a special display in London recently. Set against the backdrop of London’s Tower Bridge, 26 vehicles from 16 different brands underlined the diversity and appeal of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) now on sale across the UK.

Alternatively fuelled car registrations have grown more than threefold over the past five years, and in January this year they recorded their highest ever market share at 4.2%. Growth has been rapid but market penetration still remains at a relatively low level considering around 2.7 million new cars were registered last year.

According to a new YouGov survey commissioned by SMMT, UK adults would be more likely to buy an electric car for reasons including low running costs (51%), cheap or zero car tax (46%) and purchase incentives such as government’s plug-in car grant (36%). But the survey also found that just 13% of those in the market for a new car said the next vehicle they buy is most likely to be alternatively fuelled.

The most common reasons not to choose an electric vehicle were linked to charging and financial outlay, with 48% worried they wouldn’t be able to find an available, working and compatible charge point; and 41% stating they were put off by higher than average purchase prices.

The survey also found that the majority of consumers (68%) weren’t aware of changes to the new car VED regime coming in April. Under the new system, two thirds (66%) of the AFVs that currently qualify for the £0 standard rate will now be subject to an annual flat rate charge of £130, in addition to varying levels of first year tax. Meanwhile, those with list prices above £40,000 – which will include some of these new technology vehicles – will also have to pay an annual £310 premium car surcharge.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Thanks to massive investment by vehicle manufacturers, British car buyers have never enjoyed so much choice and, as today’s display shows, that extends to every fuel type. However, our survey highlights the need for ongoing government support for this new market. We want to encourage more people to switch to ultra low emission vehicles in meaningful numbers but more must be done to boost buyer confidence. A consistent approach to incentives – fiscal and otherwise – and, most importantly, greater investment in the charging network is essential if we are to grow this emerging market.”

Transport Minister, John Hayes, said, “Alternatively fuelled vehicles help clean up our environment and save motorists money in day-to-day running costs, and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to have a look at some of the vehicles available to UK drivers. We are working with determination to get more people switching to low emission vehicles. Our recently published Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill will make sure the right infrastructure – such as electric charge points and hydrogen refuelling stations – is in place for this growing market. We’ve committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to increase electric vehicle uptake and support greener transport schemes. This includes £290 million, announced in the Autumn Statement, to support electric vehicles, low emission buses and taxis, and alternative fuels.”

Vehicles on display 

  • Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
  • BMW i8
  • BMW i3
  • Citroën Berlingo Electric Van
  • Honda FCV Clarity
  • Hyundai IONIQ Electric
  • Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid
  • Kia Niro
  • Kia Optima PHEV
  • Lexus RX450h Hybrid F Sport
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 350 e
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  • Nissan LEAF
  • Nissan e-NV200 Van
  • Peugeot iOn
  • Peugeot Partner Van
  • Renault Twizy
  • Renault ZOE
  • Renault Kangoo Van Z.E.
  • Toyota Mirai
  • Suzuki Ignis Hybrid
  • Suzuki Baleno Mid-Hybrid
  • Volkswagen e-Up
  • Volkswagen Passat GTE
  • Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine
  • Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design

Survey results

Which one of the following do you think describes the type of fuel the next vehicle you plan to purchase will most likely be powered by?

Petrol: 51%

Diesel: 13%

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): 7%

Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PHEV): 3%

Battery Electric plug-in vehicle (BEV): 2%

Hydrogen powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV): 1%

Other: 0%

Don’t know/ not sure: 23%

Which, if any, of the following would make you more likely to purchase an electric car?

Having free parking in certain areas of city centres: 29%

Being exempt from city centre congestion charging: 19%

Having low running costs (cheap to charge/ fuel): 51%

The convenience of being able to refuel (charge) my vehicle at home: 36%

Feeling I’m doing my bit to reduce emissions and help the environment: 26%

Having cheaper/ zero car tax: 46%

Receiving money off the purchase price via incentives (such as the government plug-in car grant): 36%

Having confidence I would always be able to find an available, functioning charging point when I needed one: 47%

Other: 4%

Don’t know: 7%

Nothing would make me more likely to purchase an electric car: 22%

Which, if any, of the following are reasons you would be less likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle than other types of van/ car?

The purchase price is more expensive than other fuel types: 41%

There are no convenient charging locations near to my home/ place of work: 43%

The tax incentives aren’t attractive enough: 15%

My mileage is too high for this type of vehicle: 2%

Higher insurance costs: 24%

Concern I wouldn’t be able to find an available working and compatible charging point: 48%

Too much hassle – charging seems more complicated and time consuming that refuelling a petrol/ diesel vehicle: 33%

Not enough choice in body styles and brands: 13%

Concern about battery reliability and the cost of replacement: 46%

Concern about the vehicle’s resale value: 18%

Other: 3%

Don’t know: 8%

Nothing in particular would make me less likely to purchase an electric car: 17%

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,100 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17-20 February 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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