UK Cold to the Electric Vehicle


In a recent survey conducted by specialist insurance firm Adrian Flux, only about two percent of individuals in the UK would be most likely to purchase an electric vehicle in the next half decade.

The company surveyed a thousand of its clients and it found that about seventy percent would not consider switching to electric vehicles. The remaining twenty eight percent still have that wait and see attitude as to how the market unravels in the next few years.

Despite such cold reception to electric cars, the market is further opening up to the idea of making these vehicles a staple on UK roadways. There are about thirty new fully electric range extended and hybrid models that would hit UK showrooms in the next year and a half. Electric car naysayers have also been assured that the recharging infrastructure for electric cars is also in full throttle, with 654 charging points in Metro London alone. This is more than any other city in the European Union, where many cities of the UK that dominate the top ten in EV accommodating cities.

Expense still is a major issue, despite the grants amounting to about £5,000 for each purchase of an electric car. According to Gary Bucke of Adrian Flux Insurance Services, the reluctance to switch to these electric vehicles are attributable to the perceived ‘hassle’ of a vehicle relying on charging for power.

He said, “People are worried that they can’t just ‘drive and go’ and that they will have to plan ahead depending on how far they plan to travel each day and the ‘range’ of their car. Although the majority of people’s car journeys are short, they still want to know that – if they choose – they could travel long distances in their car without having to worry about finding a charging station. There are options available, such as range extended electric cars with petrol or diesel generators to provide extra electricity and hybrid cars which recover energy from the movement and braking of the car.”

Despite the promise of lower fuel costs, there are other areas that electric car owners would incur expenses aside from the high purchase amount. Bucke adds, “In insurance terms, insurers still have reservations about electric cars mainly based on their cost and the disposal of the batteries, which can push up the premiums.”

This though can surely be corrected with the new program instituted by the European Union. This program is a four year €41.8 million partnership to improve the up-take of electric cars throughout the Union.

The goal of the program is to develop the know-how and experience in selected regions throughout Europe as well as improve the acceptance of electric vehicles throughout Europe. According to European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas, “Transport is current 96 per cent dependent on oil for its energy needs. This is totally unsustainable. The Tranpsort 2050 Roadmap aims to break transport’s current oil dependency and allow mobility to grow.”

Electric Car Sales Rising in UK and US

Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt

This new product, the electric vehicle, is still in its infancy and data that has been made available by automakers are still scarce. While large automakers such as GM and Nissan have readily provided sales information, smaller electric car manufacturers such as Tesla, Smart, Wheego and GEM have not provided information to complete the sales picture for this revolutionary vehicle.

The top sellers of electric vehicles are the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. The design of the Volt is still basically hybrid in nature, as there is an internal combustion engine in the unit, connected to the drive train that extends the range of the vehicle. On the other hand, the Nissan Leaf is a fully automated electric vehicle powered solely by lithium ion batteries.

In June 2011, there have been 1,708 Nissan Leaf units have been sold. For May 2011, Nissan was able to sell 1,142 units. As for the Chevy Volt, there were 561 units sold in June 2011 while in May, there were 480 units sold. These numbers were the units sold over a two-month period in the United States. In total, over 3,894 units of Nissan Leaf have been sold since it was made available to the US market in December 2010.

Across the pond, UK electric car sales have been dominated by the Nissan Leaf. Once made available to the UK market in March 2011, an average of one hundred units have been sold per month totaling 338 individual units until June 2011. The smaller numbers is not due to the non-acceptance of Europeans of the new car design but rather attributed to the lack of supply available of the cars in the UK market.

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and is a precursor to a much larger demand in the future. The waiting list for electric cars now number in five hundred in the UK alone and the numbers are rising. While the numbers for electric cars seem to be a trickle compared to the thousands of internal combustion engines being bought off showrooms in both the U.S. and the UK, this is a good sign that the market for electric cars and hybrids is healthy and kicking.

Soon enough, the numbers would change.