electric vehicle in winter charging

Demand for electric vehicles slows as public chargers remain elusive

Image credit: Dreamstime

The growth in demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK has fallen due to high energy costs and concerns over insufficient charging infrastructure.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said these factors had led to it downgrading its market share forecast for EVs from 19.7 to 18.4 per cent for 2023.

Its latest outlook for 2024, meanwhile, suggests that 22.6 per cent of new car registrations will be an EV, a downward revision from the 23.3 per cent forecast in January.

Demand fell last year as the average cost of charging an electric car soared by more than a fifth as electricity prices rose amid global turmoil in the energy markets.

A 2021 study also found that the installation of chargers needs to increase by five times the current rate if the plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 is to be achieved.

The SMMT said that new zero-emission vehicle mandates, greater and faster investment in infrastructure, and more incentives to encourage purchase are “essential” to drive consumer confidence and accelerate uptake.

Some progress is being made, however, with ChargeUK, a new body representing 20 major EV charging firms, saying it aims to double the size of the UK’s charging network by the end of 2023.

Surrey County Council and chargepoint provider Connected Kerb also recently announced plans to install around 10,000 chargers as part of the largest rollout from a local authority so far.

Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive, said: “Broader economic conditions and chargepoint anxiety are beginning to cast a cloud over the market’s eagerness to adopt zero-emission mobility at the scale and pace needed.

“To ensure all drivers can benefit from electric vehicles, we need everyone – government, local authorities, energy companies and charging providers – to accelerate their investment in the transition and bolster consumer confidence in making the switch.”

More broadly, the new SMMT figures for April showed that the UK’s car market has continued to grow for the ninth successive month after being battered by economic headwinds and falls in demand during the pandemic.

It said that the performance marks the best April since 2021 but remains 17.4 per cent down on 2019 volumes.

Ian Plummer, commercial director at online vehicle marketplace Auto Trader, said: “Rising new car sales for a ninth month in a row represent a healthier economic picture than feared a few months back, which is good for the market.

“Consumer demand is strong but the softening of the SMMT’s forecasts on electric vehicle sales offers some cause for concern.

“This underlines our recent call for measures needed to support the EV market, such as cutting VAT on public chargers.”

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