Compulsion Fails to Persuade UK Drivers into EVs

As London expands its Ultra Low Emission Zone into its inner suburbs, less than a quarter of the city’s residents plan to make the switch to EV or hybrid vehicles.

From October 25, 2021, any non-compliant vehicle entering the area bordered by the Greater London north and south circular roads will be charged £12.50 ($17.26) a day. Non-compliant vehicles, effectively diesel cars made before 2016 and gasoline cars before 2007, will face the automatic charge or be fined heavily for non-payment.

Yet, a survey of car owners living or working daily within the new zone reveals that 58% would buy a compliant diesel or gasoline replacement for their existing vehicles, 13% would avoid the area, 7% would switch to public transport while just 22% would choose an EV or hybrid vehicle.

While these results of the survey commissioned by online car sales website, Auto Trader, show huge challenges remain for EV take-up, it is compounded by the fact that prices of second-hand diesel vehicles continue to rise despite the growth of restrictions imposed by areas such as the ULEZ. Ian Plummer, commercial director of Auto Trader, said: “You might expect there to be a big dip in demand levels and the price of cars that are not compliant with the new ULEZ zone, but that’s not the case. The used car market is so hot that even diesel cars over five years old are continuing to increase in price. The average five-year-old diesel increased in price from £13,513 ($18,661) to £18,293 ($25,262) in the last twelve months.”

He suggested that penalizing consumers into switching to EVs will not be the most effective way of seeing a change in their buying habits. Instead, he says that incentives are much more likely to succeed. He explained: “Our data shows that interest in electric vehicles is coming almost exclusively from wealthier postcodes. The comparatively high up-front cost of EVs is proving to be a massive barrier for people on average or below average incomes. The Government and industry simply has to grasp this nettle if it is to supercharge mass adoption.

“Ideally, that would mean removing VAT from purchases of new and used EVs. And it could also mean introducing some kind of means testing. Incentives are needed to bridge the gap between traditionally fuelled cars and EVs for those who simply cannot afford the “green premium”. The Government highlighted the potential social injustice in EVs due to price issues, which makes it all the more frustrating that it’s failing to address it, choosing to prioritise targets over genuine substance.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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