The SMMT has called on the UK government to commit to significant long-term incentives for electric vehicle (EV) purchases and binding targets on charging infrastructure.
This comes as a new survey suggests almost half of UK motorists don’t feel ready to make the switch by 2035.
EVs are rapidly growing in popularity, with demand more than doubling over the last year thanks to massive industry investment worth some £54 billion in 2019 alone.
Consumers can now choose from a raft of technologies to suit their driving needs, from plug-in hybrids capable of an average 38 miles’ zero emission driving on a single charge, to full electric models with ranges of up to 300 miles, and hydrogen-electric cars that emit nothing but water.
A new SMMT survey by Savanta ComRes confirms keen interest from consumers in this technology with drivers most attracted to the lower running costs (41%) and chance to improve the environment (29%).
However, while these cars now account for 17% of models on sale, they make up just 8% of purchases.
The survey found the biggest factors holding buyers back are higher purchase prices (52%), lack of local charging points (44%) and fear of being caught short on longer journeys (38%).
While 37% are optimistic about buying a full EV by 2025, 44% don’t think they’ll be ready by 2035, with 24% saying that they can’t ever see themselves owning one.
SMMT is calling for a long-term commitment to incentives, including the continuation of the plug-in grant and its re-introduction for plug-in hybrids – a technology critical to the transition, giving higher mileage drivers reassuring flexibility and delivering environmental benefits now.
This commitment, alongside VAT exemptions for all zero emission capable cars, would reduce the upfront price of a family car by an average £5,500 for battery electric cars and £4,750 for plug-in hybrids, and for an SUV by £9,750 and £8,000 respectively – vital given the high cost of producing this advanced new technology.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Manufacturers are working hard to make zero and ultra-low emissions the norm and are committed to working with government to accelerate the shift to net zero – but obstacles remain. Until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and operate as conventional cars, we risk the UK being in the slow lane, undermining industry investment and holding back progress.”