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Motorists still not switched on to electric cars

Thu, 28 Nov 2013 00:00:00 -0800

A new survey of 3,000 British motorists suggests there is still a long way to go before electric cars become a serious purchasing choice for the majority, with many saying the government isn’t doing enough to promote them.

According to the latest Auto Trader Owner’s Guide, only 1% of UK drivers own what it calls an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV). The poll also illustrates some significant age and gender divides, and shows that price continues to be a serious hindrance to more environmentally friendly motoring.

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Cost is the biggest turn off when it comes to electric cars

For example, the research suggests that 89% of motorists would like a more environmentally friendly car – but only if it didn’t cost them any extra. Unfortunately, electric car technology is expensive, with current resale value (and therefore depreciation) issues also putting people off.

Compounding this, CO2 emissions continue to rank bottom of purchase considerations when British buyers are looking for a new car, with only 1% giving it thought at all. Price (27%), appearance (22%) and model (22%) are ranked most important.

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Similarly, 79% of drivers want the government to do more to make AFVs more affordable. Despite record electric car registrations under the plug-in electric car grant scheme in the previous quarter of this year, 35% of the people polled were completely unaware that this £5,000 grant even exists.

When made aware, 28% said it would encourage them to consider an AFV. 74% of all motorists feel the government should be doing more to publicise the benefits, however. 89% of those surveyed said they were unsurprised that electric car sales remain so relatively low.

Auto Trader: "Put simply, going green is not currently an attractive package"

Things putting people off electric vehicles include the perceived lack of charging points – 80% have not seen a charging point within five miles of their home – as well as that old bugbear, the limited driving range between top ups.

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As for the gender gap, while 62% of women say they ‘care deeply’ about the environmental impact of their cars, only 39% of men feel the same way. The age discrepancy is best shown by the claim that 32% of 17-24 year olds would buy an AFV in the future, compared to only 18% of those aged 65 and above.

Auto Trader group marketing director, Jonathon Williams:

"The good news for car manufacturers … is that British motorists are taking an interest in electric vehicles – when made aware of the benefits and cost savings. However, we’re still a long way from convincing motorists to make the switch.

"Put simply, going green is not currently an attractive package; UK motorists are being asked to make huge compromises on aesthetics, investment of their time finding and charging their vehicle – it’s no wonder why on top of all these factors a higher up-front purchase price is too much of an ask.

"Therefore, despite a £400 million investment and a further £500 million on its way in 2015 from the government, motorists are still lacking information on costs, efficiency and effectiveness of owning electric vehicles – and, simply, choice.

"Clearly not enough is being done to incentivise both manufacturers and consumers."

What would help increase electric car sales?

So what, can be done? According to the Auto Trader report, these are the top incentives suggested by motorists to drive uptake of AFVs:

73% want an increase in the number of charging points62% want a further reduction in the cost of buying an electric car49% want bigger tax breaks for purchasing an AFV42% want free parking in city centres

As for raising awareness about AFVs, the same motorists have these suggestions:

73% said national TV campaigns would help spread the word52% said AFVs should be a compulsory section in the driving theory test49% believe educational talks to children in schools would help42% think it should be part of the school curriculum

Would any of these changes encourage you to buy an electric or other AFV? Let us know.

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By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars