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4 in 10 UK car buyers would prefer to buy a zero emission vehicle

UK electric cars sales are expected to boom in the coming 12 months with the majority of prospective EV buyers willing to pay a premium for these zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), according to study.

Over 40% of buyers would opt for a zero emission vehicle for their next car.

The latest EY Mobility Consumer Index (MCI) survey of more than 1,000 consumers across the UK and 9,000 globally, reveals that more than four in ten (41%) of those looking to purchase a car say they would like to buy a ZEV – an increase of 16% on November’s MCI. And 7 in 10 (71%) of those buyers say they are looking to purchase a ZEV in the next 12 months.

The survey also reveals that concern about the environment is the top reason for buying an EV (47% of respondents), with 68% also stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness and concerns about environmental issues. 48% of those looking to buy a ZEV feel that it is their responsibility to reduce their personal environmental impact, and 45% feel that buying an EV is one way to achieve this.

58% of all consumers say they are willing to pay a premium for an EV with 39% of those respondents willing to pay a premium of up to 20%. Those willing to pay a premium increases to 91% among those who are looking to buy an EV as their next car. However, purchase price emerges as the top detractor, with 60% of UK consumers who are not looking to buy an EV, saying that would put them off from buying.

Charlie Simpson, EY-Parthenon Partner and UK Future Mobility Lead commented: “The rise of the EV across the UK and the globe is gathering pace, with our latest reports showing that a significant number of UK consumers looking to buy a car will actively consider an EV, up 16 percentage points from November 2020. Rising EV sales have been one of the stand outs for UK car sales over recent quarters and this rise is set to increase.”

In June 2021, the UK’s battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share overtook diesel for the first time, highlighting the decline of that technology in favour of BEVs. In June 2021, electrified vehicles (BEV+PHEV) year-to-date sales were 14.5% of the market, which is double the previous year.

Continuing, Charlie said: “What’s interesting here is that, for the first time, a significant number of consumers claim they are willing to pay a premium for an EV, either due to environmental concerns or an understanding that the long-term costs will likely be lower. This would be a fundamental shift in customer attitudes in what is a mature UK auto retail market and one that will be critical if emissions targets are to be achieved.”

While the EV market is accelerating, uncertainty around charging infrastructure looms, and features as the second highest concern among those not looking to buy an EV (40%).

Charlie adds: “The rising demand for EV’s in the UK brings a significant challenge for all those stakeholders involved in the successful roll-out of the EV infrastructure – without a cohesive plan there is a risk that car manufacturers, energy companies, government and infrastructure players will all be playing different games. It would be a huge setback if EV adoption in the UK were to be hindered because the key pieces of the jigsaw were not in place to meet consumer demand. There has been significant progress so far in terms of infrastructure roll-out but much more needs to be done to meet likely demand. Driver experience of vehicle charging has to become consistent, convenient and cost effective for the positive momentum to continue.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.