Drivers’ appetite for electric and hybrid cars soar during the pandemic

The pandemic has dramatically changed many lifestyles and seemingly also made more Britons want to buy an electric car – both for environmental and practical reasons.

Nearly half of UK drivers, or 46 per cent, are now considering an electric or hybrid car as their next vehicle, up from 38 per cent last year and just 12 per cent in 2017, a new survey by insurer Aviva has showed. 

However, that means that the proportion sticking with internal cnext ombustion engines is still greater, with 38 per cent still planning to buy a petrol car and 15 per cent a diesel. 

While many will be motivated by the fact that new diesel and petrol cars will be banned from 2030, with hybrids set to follow in 2035, a third claimed they’ve been converted as a result of the pandemic.

Environmental concerns: Over half of those planning to buy a greener car said they've become more environmentally conscious after the Covid outbreak

Environmental concerns: Over half of those planning to buy a greener car said they've become more environmentally conscious after the Covid outbreak

Environmental concerns: Over half of those planning to buy a greener car said they’ve become more environmentally conscious after the Covid outbreak

Over half of those planning to buy a greener car said they’ve become more environmentally conscious after the Covid outbreak, according to the survey of 4,000 UK drivers.

While one in five, or 18 per cent, put that decision down to practical reasons – they expect to drive less, so they are probably less worried about range and charging.

Some 6 per cent also said their household no longer needs as many cars as before the pandemic. 

However, price, limited charging points, and the time it takes to recharge EVs still remain stumbling blocks for millions of drivers, with the those planning to stick to diesel or petrol still the majority. 

Jon Marsh, strategy & transformation director at Aviva, said: ‘Our research shows the appetite for electric and hybrid models is growing rapidly, but many motorists still have concerns and there is work to be done to convince everyone that the benefits outstrip any downsides.

‘The pandemic and its resulting lockdowns have naturally affected how people use their vehicles and this is having an impact on people’s purchasing decisions. 

‘There is no doubt that the demand for electric and hybrid vehicles has increased and will continue to do so as vehicle costs reduce and infrastructure improves, but it will be interesting to see whether the Covid pandemic speeds up the process as people rethink their mobility needs.’  

The type of cars UK drivers are planning to buy next 
Type of car 2017 2020 2021
Petrol 68% 46% 38%
Diesel 21% 15% 15%
Hybrid 10% 27% 32%
Fully Electric 2% 11% 14%
Sources: Aviva’s survey of 2,134 drivers in July 2017; survey of 4,002 drivers in July 2020; survey of 4,000 drivers in February 2021 

People’s willingness to buy electric and hybrid cars has increased steadily over the past years, Aviva said.

In 2017, just 10 per cent planned to buy a hybrid model and only 2 per cent said they would opt for a fully electric vehicle. 

By last summer, that had increased significantly to 27 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. 

Fast forward to February this year and some 32 per cent of UK drivers said they intended to opt for a hybrid car, while 14 per cent wanted to buy a fully electric car.      

Perceived barriers to buying a greener car
Reason for not choosing a hybrid / electric vehicle for next motor purchase Percentage of drivers who said they wouldn’t choose a hybrid / electric vehicle
High purchase price 49%
Limited charging points 49%
Length of time to charge 37%
Limited range 37%
Fear of being stranded 30%
Performance vs petrol / diesel vehicles 16%
Confused about Government plans around electric vehicles 14%

The concerns amongst those who do not want to change to a greener car are typically the same – price and lack of charging points.

Half of the unconverted said that both the cost of an electric vehicle and limited charging points are holding them back from choosing a hybrid or electric vehicle for their next motor purchase. 

This is followed by worries about the length of time taken to charge vehicles and limited range, both indicated as a concern by 37 per cent of survey respondents.   

Aviva said its research suggests that more people would be open to the idea of an electric vehicle if greater financial incentives were available. 

A fifth of drivers who plan to buy a hybrid or electric model as their next car say they want to take advantage of the Government grant available on low-emissions vehicles.

Two thirds of all drivers say they would be more likely to buy a greener car if they were cheaper or subsidised. 

The shift in motorists’ attitudes towards EVs is reflected in the latest industry figures showing that new registrations of all-electric models rose by a third in August, while conventional hybrids posted growth of 46 per cent.

The biggest increase in year-on-year demand was for plug-in hybrids, rising by 72 per cent compared to August 2020 as buyers continue to be enticed by the option of having both internal combustion and electric power.

The SMMT suggests the resurgent popularity of PHEVs has partly been driven by the Government’s decision to slash the Plug-in Car Grant available to fully electric vehicles in March. 

Top 10 Tips for EV owners 

Aviva has compiled this list of tips for owners of electric vehicles: 

1. When looking at buying an EV, don’t forget to factor in ongoing costs, such as fuel, tax and servicing – which may be cheaper than petrol or diesel equivalents due to low emissions and a ‘clean’ engine. The total cost of ownership may work out to be less.

2. Government grants of up to £2,500 are available for new low-emission vehicles. If you are buying a new EV, you do not need to apply for this – the dealer will include the value of the grant in the vehicle’s total price.

3. Check that the mileage range on the EV you want to buy is suitable for your needs. Battery technology has advanced since the first generation of EVs hit the market a decade ago; some EVs now claim ranges of more than 300 miles. Older vehicles may not achieve the ‘official’ range in real day-to-day driving conditions.

4. There are more than 16,000 charging stations across the UK, with a total of around 44,000 connectors, or charging cables for use. Apps like ZapMap show which chargers are available in your area, and which ones are working. Often your car charger map won’t provide as much detail as an app.

5. As with the price of fuel, it’s generally more expensive to charge at a motorway station than at or near your home.

6. How many miles you get on a single charge will depend on how you use your EV. Typically, motorway driving is less efficient than city driving – the braking inherent in driving in urban environments charges the battery. For peace of mind, you might consider purchasing breakdown cover which includes a roadside boost for EVs. 

7. EVs drive differently to petrol or diesel engines and their acceleration can be a lot quicker. It is worth test driving an EV to understand how it drives.

8. Remember that EVs and hybrids are quiet – pedestrians, animals, cyclists and other road users might not hear you coming, especially in car parks.

9. Each charging provider will be slightly different – some will let you pay-as-you-go; others will require a subscription and some chargers are free. Make sure you don’t accidently sign up to a charging provider who takes payment on a regular basis if you’re not going to use that charger very often.

10. The batteries that power your EV are different than those in your phone or other electrical items: charge ‘little and often’ instead of waiting for the battery to run down and charge it up from zero.

 

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