For anyone with an interest in low carbon technology and innovation, it’s evident there are many exciting projects underway to accelerate adoption of low emissions transport. Following the government announcement that all new cars and vans will be zero emission by 2040 and the publication of the Road to Zero strategy back in July, Impact commissioned a follow up to its EV consumer sentiment tracker to find out if these ‘top-down’ initiatives are resonating with the masses.
At first glance our study shows public opinion of electric vehicles has continued to increase over the past year and a half. But when we look beneath the surface, it becomes clear there are swathes of the population feeling marginalised and excluded from the party.
Unsurprisingly, interest in LCVs is higher in congested and affluent cities such as London, where 40% say they would be extremely likely to buy a hybrid or electric car in the future. As you’d expect, London is also the region with the highest percentage of EV drivers. The second highest region already driving EVs, behind London is East of England, not a region that necessarily springs to front of mind, but possibly benefitting from the LCV investments made by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.
The South East region, which includes dwellings such as Milton Keynes and Oxford, both benefit from the Go Ultra Low scheme and this can be illustrated by the fact 32% of consumers knew someone with an EV, just behind London at 49%. However, over half (55%) disagree they ‘are confident I would have enough charge if I drove an electric vehicle’. With increased charge point availability, free parking and low emission priority lanes across the region, why is this still a concern?
Looking at household income in more detail, it looks like the lowest wage earners are feeling priced out of the market, or just don’t see the value in investing in a low carbon emission vehicle. Those earning less than £20K are significantly less likely to agree (29%) they would be willing to spend more for an EV if it was proven to be more environmentally friendly than a petrol or diesel car. Only 19% of households with incomes of less than £20k know someone with an EV compared to 44% of those earning £40K+.
Albeit a lower interest level than that of the higher income earners (with an 82% interest), 66% of those earning less than £20K and 67% of those earning £30k-39k say they would consider buying a hybrid or EV as their next car. With the sales price of an EV at a premium compared to a conventional engine, the sector must do more to support these consumers and to help them enjoy the long-term benefits, or risk electric vehicle ownership being associated only with those more fortunate.
Despite the funding and high-profile announcements, a shockingly low number of people (23%) living in London know about the government grant towards the cost of installing a charge point at their home. What’s more, and bringing into perspective the breadth of the challenge ahead, only a meagre 13% in the whole of the UK are aware of this grant. So, it is evident that both the private and public sector need to do more in order to entice the masses to jump onto the EV revolution.
The optimism of youth
Much commentary points to the younger generations being more environmentally and socially aware. In terms of EV ownership, our survey bares this observation out, with 41% of those aged 18-34 years stating they are very likely to purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle as their next car. Additionally, 44% of this group believe electric vehicles are affordable to buy compared to 15% of those aged 35+ years.
51% of green consumers* believe the UK and Scottish governments will meet their low emission target, compared to 19% of those who are less likely to spend more for an electric vehicle.
The likelihood to purchase a low emissions vehicle declines with age specifically due to concerns about price, battery range and charging availability. This is clearly an issue for the sector to address, as infrastructure and vehicle range have come on leaps and bounds yet this has not communicated to the consumer. So, despite the progress those aged 25-34 are the only group where the majority believe that electric cars are a reliable form of transportation and that they’re only real future alternative to petrol and diesel cars.
What can we learn from our EU neighbours?
In the UK we are witnessing a whirlwind of world-leading advancements: smart technology and demand management techniques to allow for intelligent energy distribution across the network, automotive manufacturers investing in, designing and releasing connected and autonomous low emission vehicles at a rapid pace, and a charging infrastructure quickly catching up with the number of petrol stations in use.
Norway has achieved 36,500 sales of hybrid/EV passenger cars in the first half of 2018 and with 37% being new registrations, and Germany have achieved a rapid growth of 19,992 EV sales in the first half of 2018. How has such success been achieved? These governments have taken on several initiatives to incentivise buyers, namely taking off import tax and VAT on plug-in cars and investing in infrastructure whilst EVs were in their infancy. The UK might do well to review these low carbon emission strategies in order to prepare for 2040.
*Respondents willing to spend more for an EV if more environmentally friendly
How Impact can help
Impact is an electric vehicle sector expert, partnering with organisations such as EA Technology and Western Power Distribution on the Electric Nation project, to investigate how electric vehicle ownership will impact low voltage networks, and help ensure the industry is future-ready. We are passionate about supporting organisations connect with their audience, gather insight and influence growth strategies.
To find out more about our EV study or how Impact can help you call Associate Director Nicole McNab on 01932 226 793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.