electric vehicle battery

UK drivers could be ‘priced out of the electric revolution,’ study warns

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Rising energy costs and lack of affordable options could stall the demand for electric vehicles in the United Kingdom, according to recent analysis.

A report by consumer website Electrifying.com has found that there are only seven new electric car models on sale in the UK for under £30,000, compared to 107 available models of petrol or diesel cars in the same price bracket.

This lack of affordable options, added to the rise in electricity costs, has led to a decrease in the amount of money users can save by running an electric car instead of a petrol model, the company concluded. 

Electrifying.com founder and chief executive Ginny Buckley said electric cars are “firmly embedded in the UK’s car-buying habits” but warned that drivers are “paying more” to make the switch from petrol and diesel.

“The choice of affordable cars is dwindling and, unless you’re charging on a cheap night-time tariff, you’ll now barely notice the savings," she said. “Unless action is taken – and quickly – many hard-working people across the country risk being priced out of the electric revolution.

“If we are to bring everyone along on the journey, we need the government to step in immediately to incentivise drivers to make the switch.”

These findings are supported by the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which show that the demand for new pure electric cars is rising more slowly than last year. According to the organisation, at the end of August, the year-to-date increase had fallen to 49 per cent.

This is a sharp contrast with the numbers of earlier this year when the number of registrations between January and March was 102 per cent more than during the same period in 2021. 

To address this challenge, Buckley called for the government to approve interest-free loans to purchase used electric cars – such as those available in Scotland – across the rest of the UK.

“We want everyone to be able to make the switch to cleaner, zero-emission cars and latest figures continue to show more people are choosing to go electric," said a government spokesperson, in response. “The majority of electric vehicles continue to have lower overall running costs than petrol and diesel alternatives, thanks to cheaper charging, lower maintenance costs and tax incentives.

“This is backed by £2.5bn government funding committed since 2020 to help boost charging infrastructure and drive the transition to zero-emission vehicles across the nation.”

A recent poll of 1,021 adults by Focaldata found that almost half of Britons blame the government for the energy crisis more than the energy firms. Some 47 per cent of respondents blamed ministers for “failing to prepare and prevent” the huge rise in energy bills, while just 30 per cent laid the blame with energy firms.

Earlier in August, an analysis by RAC found that a 64kWh EV model, such as a Kia e-Niro, would have cost £33.80 to charge from the first of October with the expected price cap. This would have cost just £13.69 earlier this year and approximately £18.37 now under the current price cap.

In comparison, petrol prices for ICE vehicles have actually come down in recent weeks after reaching highs of around 190p per litre for petrol in mid-July, gradually declining to around 170p per litre today. Diesel prices have mirrored this trend, whilst always remaining slightly more expensive than petrol.

Last week, new Prime Minister Liz Truss unveiled her plan to address the rising cost of energy. Under the government’s proposed plans, energy bills will be frozen at £2,500 and businesses will be spared crippling increases until the next general election, scheduled to be held in two years’ time. The measure will replace the existing energy price cap set by regulator Ofgem, which was set to increase to £3,549 come October.

As a result of the government’s new “energy price guarantee”, charging of electric vehicles is expected to be a third cheaper than it would have been under the expected price cap, according to a new analysis.

The RAC said it will cost an average of £22.22 to fully charge an electric car with a 64-kilowatt hour battery – such as a Kia e-Niro – from October 1. That is nearly a £4 increase over the current price, but £11.50 less than it would have done under the cap which was due to come into force at the start of next month.

RAC electric vehicle spokesman Simon Williams said the measure will “significantly cushion the impact of rising energy prices affecting drivers of electric cars”. 

“It remains to be seen what impact the government’s new package of help will have on chargepoint operators and the prices they set drivers, but we remain concerned about the rising wholesale costs of energy that may force some to increase their prices in the coming months," Williams said. 

“There’s the potential for the Government’s net-zero transport ambitions to be derailed if higher electricity prices put drivers off from switching to an electric model, which is why we have called on the Government to cut the 20 per cent VAT rate on public chargepoints to match the 5 per cent charged on domestic electricity.”

Electric car owners are advised to check with their energy provider to confirm the exact price of their new tariff.

[Edited on September 13, 2022] 

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