Are British drivers ready to give electric cars the green light?

| 2nd November 2017
Cars sit stranded in a bank holiday weekend traffic jam on the A31 in the New Forest. (c) Jim Champion
Cars sit stranded in a bank holiday weekend traffic jam on the A31 in the New Forest. (c) Jim Champion
With less than 25 years until the purchase of new diesel and petrol cars will be banned, JACK ALEXANDER explores what is holding back the electric car market in the UK.
Almost half of the British public have never considered purchasing a green vehicle despite the upcoming laws

With government policymakers around the globe cracking down on diesel and petrol vehicles, the electric car revolution is soon to be upon us.

As of 2040, the purchase of new diesel and petrol cars will be banned, forcing the UK population to switch to more environmentally friendly means of transport. However, with the wheels of change in motion the question of whether the country is in a position where sustainable driving by 2040 is actually achievable remains. 

Far from simply banning the purchase of these gas-guzzlers, there are a number of influencing factors that must be considered when weighing up the viability.

Lack of knowledge 

Before the UK makes the switch we need to review aspects such as the initial cost of purchasing a green vehicle, levels of public awareness on the government-backed schemes available to help make the purchase and the number of charging points currently available in UK cities.

Recent research from MoneySuperMarket.com has uncovered the primary factors preventing the British public making the move to driving green. Survey data shows that the most prominent issuesappear to be a lack of education on how electric vehicles work and concerns over the financial cost.

The research revealed that 49 percent of the British public have never considered purchasing a green vehicle despite the upcoming laws. In addition to this, 30 percent of those surveyed stated that a lack of knowledge on how electric vehicles work is one of their primary reasons for not making the change.

Overall however, price appeared to be the biggest barrier for many, stopping them from making the move to electric. 51 percent of the people surveyed stated that price is currently the biggest barrier to them buying an electric car, with 62 percent unaware of any government discounts and grants available for those looking to buy electric or hybrid vehicles.

In fact, the government offers a number of grants and discounts reducing the cost of new green cars and motorcycles. Utilising these benefits can result in a20-35 percent reduction in the initial purchase price of an environmentally friendly vehicle, dependent on the CO2 emissions of the particular vehicle. 

Almost half of the British public have never considered purchasing a green vehicle despite the upcoming laws

Reducing pollution

However, even when government funding is taken into account, the public concern over the cost of making the green switch still appears to be founded. 

The research also investigated whether going green is cost-effective for the consumer. Results found that although the running costs for an electric vehicle were a considerable 20 percent cheaper over a 6 year life span of a car than petrol and diesel vehicles, and filling up a diesel car is five times more expensive than recharging an electric vehicle, driving electric is still not the cheapest option.

Considering the overall cost including the upfront price of owning an electric car and its insurance, electric cars remain more expensive than driving a petrol vehicle. This being said, if a driver switched to driving exclusively electric vehicles in 2018, they would have saved almost £8,000 on running costs by the time the ban is enforced.

Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “When it comes to electric cars, it’s a case of when, not if. While the supporting infrastructure is patchy at best and is simply inadequate in many locations, it will steadily improve as more drivers make the switch.

"Early adopters may endure frustrations in the meantime, but they’ll be rewarded with lower running costs than their petrol and diesel-driving counterparts. And, of course, they’ll be making a major contribution to reducing pollution and improving the environment.”

This Author

Jack Alexander is a regular contributor to The Ecologist.

 

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