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Sales of alternative fuel vehicles overtake diesel for the first time

Sales of alternative fuel vehicles have overtaken diesel for the first time, with 33,000 pure electric and hybrid cars registered between April and June, compared with 29,900 diesels, according to The Department for Transport. 

A third of drivers plan to buy a green vehicle next, while petrol and diesel are seeing a downward drop in popularity. This is at a time when the UK’s ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars is expected to be brought forward from 2040 to 2030. The government had hoped to set out the plans as early as this week, according to sources in the energy and transport industries, but the announcement will be delayed until later this year as it focuses on tackling the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Key stats from Close Brothers Motor Finance’s Britain Under the Bonnet report on attitudes toward alternative fuelled vehicles (AFVs) show that:

• Pre-lockdown, a third (32%) of drivers were planning to buy an alternative fuelled vehicle (AFV) as their next car purchase

• And once purchased car buyers don’t switch back, with 93% of AFV owners admit they’d buy another one again

• Although petrol remains the most popular choice of fuel type, it continues to see a downward drop year on year, from 42% to 37% of drivers planning to buy one next

• Just one in ten (12%) buyers would opt for a diesel car next

• A fifth (21%) planning on buying a hybrid car, and one in ten (11%) opting for electric

• City dwellers are far more likely to buy an AFV next (38%) compared to those in towns (30%) and villages (28%) – evidence that infrastructure is key

• Environmental concerns are the leading reason why people would opt for an AFV (28%), followed by cheaper running costs (18%).

Seán Kemple, Managing Director at Close Brothers Motor Finance commented: “At the start of the year, it looked like the shift to AFVs would be one of the biggest trends for the motor industry in 2020. Ambitious targets set by the Government to achieve zero-emissions streets put the wheels in motion for a greener future. And the demand is clearly there too. While petrol still comes out on top as the nation’s chosen fuel type, AFVs are picking up the pace as people look for more environmentally friendly choices and cheaper running costs.

“But in recent months, the shift to electric has been deprioritised for car dealers as they were forced to shut down shop in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. While the sector is bouncing back, dealers are now focused on getting buyers the keys to their next car and adapting to a very different retail environment. But the coming months are also an opportunity for the industry to build back better, a part of which will be building back, but greener. As people are continuing to turn away from public transport and look for alternative ways to travel, the car market is seeing a boost. Coupled with growing environmental consciousness and a looming diesel ban, demand for AFVs is likely to continue rising, and dealers have a chance to capitalise on this. Government support will also be vital in shaping the recovery of the sector and develop infrastructure to facilitate the shift the electric.”   

Britain Under the Bonnet methodology

The figures in this report are based on Close Brothers Motor Finance’s own data, a telephone survey of over 200 UK car dealers undertaken between November 2019 – January 2020, and a consumer survey of over 2,000 UK drivers, weighted to be nationally representative. The survey was conducted in December 2019 by Censuswide.