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High prices, poor charging and ‘misinformation’ put buyers off electric cars

Guarantees over life of batteries in electric cars could help spur buyers, report from House of Lords says

Neil Lancefield
Tuesday 06 February 2024 04:20 GMT
The millionth pure battery electric new car has been registered in the UK, industry figures show (John Walton/PA)
The millionth pure battery electric new car has been registered in the UK, industry figures show (John Walton/PA) (PA Archive)

Urgent action must be taken by the government to help drivers switch to electric cars and tackle misinformation around the vehicles.

The warning comes as new industry figures show that buyers are beginning to shy away from the vehicles, which are charged from the grid. Market share for the vehicles slipped from 16.5pc of sales at the end of last year to 14.7pc in January.

A combination of higher purchase costs, insufficient charging infrastructure and mixed messaging are putting some people off from making the switch to electric motoring, peers warned.

The report from the Environment and Climate Change Committee urged ministers to instil confidence in consumers to ditch petrol and diesel cars.

One option it suggested is to incentivise purchases of used EVs by creating an industry standard assessment of the condition and likely future degradation of their batteries.

Other recommendations included ensuring the rollout of EV charging infrastructure is not delayed by “out-dated regulation”, and taking action to tackle “misinformation” about electric motoring.

Baroness Parminter, who chaired the inquiry, said: “Surface transport is the UK’s highest emitting sector for CO2, with passenger cars responsible for over half those emissions.

“The evidence we received shows the government must do more – and quickly – to get people to adopt EVs.

“If it fails to heed our recommendations, the UK won’t reap the significant benefits of better air quality and will lag in the slow lane for tackling climate change.”

Electric cars run off green power like solar panels (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

EVs are more expensive to buy than their petrol and diesel equivalents, and there is an “insufficient range of affordable EVs”, the report stated.

The upfront cost of EVs, including second-hand cars, is “a significant barrier to consumer adoption”, the committee said.

Peers described the UK’s removal of purchase incentives to support private buyers as “premature”.

They also suggested that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing the delay in the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 – in which he said achieving net zero “is going to be hard” – was an example of “emphasising the costs while failing to stress the benefits”.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “For many people, an electric car offers the prospect of cheap motoring once they have left the showroom.

“The key is the recharging process, especially when drivers are away from home.

“Plugging in at a public charge point needs to be as simple and straightforward as visiting a forecourt selling petrol and diesel, and at the moment the multitude of systems and tariffs on offer means it isn’t.

“Convenience and consistency must triumph over complexity.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on Monday that the millionth pure battery electric new car was registered in the UK in January.

It warned that market growth is currently dependent on businesses and fleets, and urged the Treasury to use next month’s Budget to temporarily halve VAT on purchases of new EVs.

The government announced on Monday that schools in England will be able to apply for grants to buy and install electric vehicle chargers.

State-funded schools and other learning institutions will have access to a grant providing up to 75 per cent of the cost to install chargers, with funding available for up to £2,500 per socket.

The Department for Transport was approached for a comment.

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