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Signs of change

By / 7 years ago / Features / No Comments


Electric Vehicles: 

How is the market performing?

The SMMT recorded 2,558 pure electric vehicle sales during the first six months of 2014, a 143.9% year-on-year rise. Business sales more than doubled year on year, and still make up the bulk of registrations.


What’s driving the change?

Nissan refreshed the LEAF last year, introducing additional trim levels and bringing production to the UK for the first time. The car accounted for 68.8% of pure electric vehicles sold in the first half of 2014, and sales were up 113.3% year on year.

Barry Beeston, fleet sales director at Nissan, believes the LEAF’s move into the mainstream will be bolstered by fleets trying the e-NV200 electric van: ‘The vehicle offers substantial and quantifiable benefits to fleet and business users. We also believe it will open doors for companies to consider the LEAF as a viable choice too as it will be a great ambassador for the wider benefits of running EVs,’ he says.

Greg Taylor, operations director at ALD Automotive, agrees that electric vans will be important: ‘What the growth in the electric van market could do is expose more drivers to using electric vehicles on a regular basis. This in turn could support the new and used EV market as somebody who uses electric vans on a daily basis will have already been through “range anxiety” and learnt how to get the best out of an EV.'


What’s coming up?

Volkswagen’s e-Golf is looking to be competitively priced, but the highest-profile new arrival in the pure electric vehicle sector is the Tesla Model S. Company CEO and co-founder Elon Musk says the UK is seen as the third-largest global market for the executive model, which began deliveries here in June.

Mike Potter, managing director at FleetDrive Electric, says knowledge is key: ‘Once everyone knows someone that has one they will be blown away by how practical and frugal EVs are. All major manufacturers have electric versions of popular models, making them very much more acceptable and less of a novelty, environmentally-friendly purchase.’


Plug-in Hybrids:

How is the market performing?

Plug-in hybrid sales almost tripled year on year, to 1,515 units in the first half of 2014. This remains a sector led by retail demand, but business registrations climbed 148.5% too, according to the SMMT.


What’s driving the change?

Savvy pricing on Mitsubishi’s part is having a big effect. The Outlander PHEV is priced the same as the equivalent 2.2-litre diesel automatic, which makes it pretty much a no-brainer for company car drivers with a suitable commute. As a result, after two months on sale, this model alone accounts for 35.8% of plug-in hybrid sales for the first half of 2014.

With 40% going to fleets, two new corporate sales managers and a network of company car specialist dealers have been appointed to cater for its sales growth. The Outlander PHEV is also proving popular as a salary sacrifice option, with Ian Hughes, commercial director at Zenith, reporting that it took 6% of orders on one recently launched scheme.

Toby Marshall, director of sales and marketing, Mitsubishi Motors UK, says: ‘There has always been a greater acceptance for plug in technology compared to pure-EV as the “range anxiety” has been more or less eliminated. However, the key element for our level of interest and subsequent sales is a combination of a car with no compromises, that carries no premium for the technology.’

The BMW i3 REX (range extender) was also a significant newcomer, accounting for a quarter of the segment’s sales. Matt Bristow, general manager, corporate sales at BMW Group UK, reckons educating corporate customers early has helped: ‘Fleets usually take a little longer to adopt newer technology, however by involving our fleet customers from a very early stage we have seen fleet sales meet expectations and naturally there is significant opportunity to grow in 2015.’


What’s coming up?

Expect the Audi A3 e-tron and mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf GTE to become tempting additions to choice lists, offering 202bhp and CO2 emissions of 37g/km or 35g/km respectively. However, if the Outlander PHEV continues at its current rate, it stands to become the UK’s biggest-selling plug-in vehicle this year.



How is the market performing?

By far the most established technology, the growing choice of non plug-in hybrids means these accounted for 19,264 units during the first half of 2014, or 82.5% of the alternative fuel market, SMMT figures reveal. This is a 39.1% rise year on year, and fleet volumes were up by 25.6%.


What’s driving the change?

While Honda is about to halt hybrid sales in Europe, fellow early arrival Toyota has continued to champion the technology as an alternative to diesel engines. The result is 50% of the manufacturer’s UK fleet sales are hybrids, and refreshed Auris Hybrid was the country’s biggest-selling alternative fuel vehicle at 21.1% of the total market – 4,934 units – helped by the addition of an estate, and a facelift at the end of 2012.

Jon Hunt, Toyota and Lexus fleet marketing manager, says the latter has been a game changer: ‘We have seen success across a wide range of business sectors but particularly with business operators moving away from vans and CDVs to the estate model. The lower operating costs, better comfort and driver satisfaction of a car rather than a van have been key factors.’


What’s coming up?

Jon Burdekin, head of consultancy services at Alphabet, sees some of this volume moving towards plug-in models: ‘Generally speaking, it is possible to achieve greater financial and environmental savings with a plug-in hybrid or pure battery electric model than with a non-plug-in hybrid,’ he says. ‘This is down to the lack of fuel requirement, BiK and other taxation. However, every circumstance is different and non-plug-in hybrids continue to have a role to play.’

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.