UK drivers not quite ready for electric vehicles

A study by Auto Trader says many drivers plan on waiting nine years before purchasing an EV.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
3 min read

Earlier this year the UK launched its Road to Zero plan with the ambitious goals of at least 50-percent of all new car sales to be ultralow-emission by 2030 and the full cessation of the sale of traditionally fueled cars by 2040. Lofty goals for sure, and ones that most Britons reportedly think are unrealistic.

In a recent study by Auto Trader UK of over 1,000 drivers, the website found that people's opinions are heavily divided on the proposed ban and only 26 percent of those surveyed said that they would consider an EV as their next car. In fact, the study found that many drivers plan on waiting nine years to make the switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle.

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The study says the lack of charging infrastructure is the main reason folks are hesitant to make the jump to EVs. Duh.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

For many, the lack of infrastructure is the main obstacle in the way of buying an EV. The Road to Zero initiative plans to combat this by advocating for charging stations being built into new homes and a new lamppost design with public charging points for EVs. There is also a £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to provide funding for charge point installers and manufacturers, as well as a £40 million grant to develop on-street charging technology.

Road to Zero also has solutions for those who feel the initial investment in an EV is too expensive. While a grant program will continue until 2020 to help take the sting out of the initial purchase price, drivers can also get a £500 grant to install a home charging system. However, the study also showed that 74 percent of drivers were unaware of any government-funded programs available to them, this is a stark contrast to the US where many manufacturers regularly use state and federal incentives to help sell EVs.

"There's no doubt that electric vehicles are the future, however, our research indicates that there are still significant barriers to adoption, with greater investment in infrastructure and technology needed," said Erin Baker, editorial director for Auto Trader UK. "It's also crucial that car manufacturers and the government alike ensure that language to describe electric cars is clear and accessible, rather than laden with technological jargon that consumers may find alienating."

But lest you think those folks across the pond just don't care about emissions, the study found that 56 percent of drivers care more about what's powering their commute than they did a year ago. Further, about half of respondents said the negative news reports concerning diesel emissions have made them more likely to consider an EV or hybrid. Auto Trader says searches on its website for diesel cars have gone down, while those for EVs have gone up.

Here in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a proposal to freeze fuel economy standards until 2026 at 43.7 mpg for passenger cars and 31.3 mpg for light trucks. However, individual states have set separate goals for EV sales. California has set a target of 5 million EVs on the road by 2030 and is leading a coalition of eight other states with a plan of 80 steps to be taken between 2018 and 2021 to encourage the adoption of EVs and hybrids.