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Four in five drivers say electric cars are too expensive – survey

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·3-min read

Nearly four out of five drivers (78%) think pure electric cars are too expensive, according to a new survey.

But the RAC poll of 3,068 motorists also detected an apparent rise in the number of people who plan to make the switch to electric when they next change their car, from 6% in 2019 to 9% in 2020.

The motoring services firm said that the retail price of new pure battery electric cars remains “significantly higher” than their petrol or diesel-powered equivalents, putting them out of reach of many drivers.

Green number plates making it easier to identify electric cars launched last month (Nissan/PA)
Green number plates making it easier to identify electric cars launched last month (Nissan/PA)

More than half of motorists (53%) said they would like to see VAT on zero-emission vehicles either abolished or reduced.

Some 48% of respondents were in favour of a scrappage scheme to make switching from a conventionally-fuelled vehicle more affordable.

Three-in-10 would support a £1,000 increase in the plug-in car grant (PiCG), bringing it up to £4,000.

The research also indicated that the pandemic appears to have cut the number of people who expect to upgrade to another vehicle of any type in the next 12 months, from 14% in 2019 to 11% in 2020.

In November, Boris Johnson brought forward the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2030 as part of his “green industrial revolution”.

Green number plates making it easier to identify electric cars launched last month, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps among the first to apply.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “The single biggest barrier to a driver choosing an electric car over one powered by petrol or diesel has to be cost.

“Although good finance leasing deals and offers such as free home charging for a set period can help, it appears to be the case that the price of many new EVs (electric vehicles) remains prohibitively high for a lot of people, with most drivers keen to see more financial help from the Government to bring costs down.

“If the Government really wants to stimulate demand for electric vehicles quickly, then it either has to boost the plug-in car grant or remove, or cut, VAT for a fixed period of time.

“A healthy market for new electric cars in the UK will also have another major benefit – it will mean more EVs make their way onto the second-hand market, improving affordability of zero-emission models for everyone.”

But AA president Edmund King believes the barrier presented by the upfront cost of EVs is “fast crumbling”.

He added that “switching to electric becomes a no-brainer” when savings from not filling up with petrol or diesel, and exemptions from city access fees such as London’s Congestion Charge, are taken into account.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “There has never been a better time to make the switch.

“With the range of zero-emission models expanding, together with our investment of over £2.8 billion, we’re charging up the electric car revolution to create a cleaner, greener transport system for all.”