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UK Automotive Industry Celebrates EV Growth but Calls for Further Support

by Anna

London, UK – Leaders in the UK’s automotive sector are celebrating the rapid growth of the battery electric car market, which has seen a 21-fold increase in EV uptake since 2018. According to recent data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), an electric vehicle is now registered in the UK every 60 seconds. As a result, EVs account for over 16% of total vehicle sales, positioning Britain as Europe’s second-largest zero-emission car market by volume.

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Despite these impressive gains, the UK automotive industry believes that additional measures are necessary to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles and bring them into the mainstream. Private buyers, who initially drove the shift towards EVs, are currently delaying their switch due to concerns about affordability and uncertainty regarding the availability of a nationwide charging infrastructure.

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Over the past five years, battery electric cars have witnessed significant growth, climbing from 0.7% of the new car market in 2018 to an anticipated 17.8% by the end of this year. However, the industry recognizes that even faster progress is needed to meet the country’s ambitious net-zero emissions targets.

Business buyers and fleets have played a pivotal role in driving demand for EVs, aided by fiscal incentives. However, the removal of the Plug-in Car Grant in 2022, leaving the UK as the sole major European market lacking consumer EV incentives despite having an ambitious transition timeline, has resulted in a decline in sales to private buyers from more than one in three to less than one in four.

The proposed Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, set to take effect in barely 100 days, aims to compel the sale of electric cars and vans, yet it has not been finalized. Business demand, supported by incentives, highlights the role of government backing in boosting the EV market. A survey commissioned by Savanta reveals that two-thirds of non-EV drivers want to switch to electric, but only 2% plan to do so this year, with 17% aiming for 2024, and more than half not considering a switch until 2026 or later.

Manufacturers are eager to provide consumers with a wide range of EV options to meet their needs and preferences. However, the survey indicates that 68% of respondents believe financial incentives are necessary to accelerate adoption, and 67% prioritize the availability of affordable and reliable public charging infrastructure.

To replicate the success seen in the business and fleet markets, the private retail market needs similar incentives. The industry suggests several measures, including reducing VAT on EV purchases, raising the threshold for Vehicle Excise Duty, and implementing fairer taxation rates for public charging. Mandating targets for charge-point rollout to address infrastructure inadequacies is also vital.

The survey emphasizes that once consumers make the switch to an EV, they seldom return to conventionally fueled vehicles. Nine out of ten electric car drivers express no desire to revert, citing reduced fuel costs and environmental benefits as major motivators.

Mike Hawes, CEO of the SMMT, calls for a comprehensive package of measures to encourage households across the UK to adopt EVs, benefiting not only the automotive industry but also the Exchequer, society, and the global environment. He believes that the UK can and should be a leader in the transition to electric vehicles, given its industry, technological prowess, and scale.

SMMT Electrified, the UK’s foremost summit on zero-emission vehicle transition, will convene more than 600 automotive industry leaders, stakeholders, government representatives, energy sector experts, chargepoint providers, and fleet operators to discuss and address the key challenges and opportunities in Britain’s transport decarbonization journey.

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