41% of Brits would buy electric car but cost concerns put them off

Over 40% of British drivers would consider buying an electric/hybrid vehicle (EV) in the next five years, but cost and infrastructure worries are stopping them, according to a survey by international electrical supply distributors, Rexel, and pollster Censuswide.

The major concern was that an electric or hybrid would run out of energy before completing journeys, as 62% of respondents said a lack of charging stations make electric cars seem impractical over petrol and diesel cars. An alarming 72% of drivers said they have never even seen an EV charger.

There are more than 3,000 publicly accessible charge points in the UK, but 50% of those surveyed were concerned that they wouldn’t know where to charge their vehicle and  30% of Brits have no idea who they would go to for advice on EVs and how to charge them.

Another 60% of respondents were put off by the upfront cost of EVs. In January 2011, the government introduced the plug-in car grant, offering a 25% (up to £5,000) subsidy of the upfront cost of an electric vehicle; over a thousand cars eligible for the plug-in car grant registered last year. The government also introduced low-emissions tax exemptions and various tax reductions for electric car owners.

Brian Smithers, strategic development director for Rexel Northern European Zone, said the UK market would develop depending on “consumer awareness, acceptance and rising oil prices. Independent forecasts suggest that hundreds of thousands of plug-in vehicles could be on the road by 2020.”

Smithers continued: “The survey results highlight that more needs to be done to raise awareness amongst the British public and reassure them.”

A recent House of Commons transport select committee report on plug-in car policies said emissions from cars account for over half the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions.

In February this year, the coalition invested £37million in installing electric car chargers.

The select committee also said the “government has invested £11 million” to “benefit only a handful” of electric car owners as purchases remain stagnant, but predicts an influx in purchases as infrastructure grows, by 2020.

The results surface just weeks after a British-made electric car driven by Lord Paul Drayson, of Drayson Racing, broke the land speed world record in Yorkshire, reaching 204.2mph. “The technology that we developed for this car will filter down to the cars we use every day,” Drayson told the BBC.

Amsterdam is currently leading the electric car front, building charger points since 2009 and offering free parking to the 7,000 plus electric cars recorded on the road in 2012.

“In order for people to want to drive EVs, they need to get used to seeing them, perhaps initially in government or corporate car fleets or car sharing clubs,” a WWF report said in 2011, also proposing free parking for EV drivers.

1.7 million EVs need to be sold by 2020 and 6.3 million by 2030, if the UK is to meet its agreed carbon reduction target of at least 80% by 2050, according to WWF.

WWF also said 80% of UK fuel demands could be reduced by switching to electric cars, as well as a 75% reduction of emissions, avoiding £5 billion a year in oil exports by 2030.

 “Price, range and infrastructure are the biggest barriers to EVs being accepted by consumers. Changes to driver attitudes will also be required for EVs to gain acceptance and to encourage less [petrol and diesel] driving. Government policy intervention will be needed to overcome these issues and help UK companies make the most of EV market opportunities,” continued WWF.