Skip advert
Advertisement

“Sales of electric cars have increased – but at a painfully slow rate”

Mike Rutherford thinks much more needs to be done before the UK bans the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in January 2030

Opinion - Vauxhall Corsa Electric

As we say goodbye and good riddance to the early-2020s, which were riddled with everything from deadly Covid and rampant inflation to shattered disposable incomes, there’s no doubt that sales of 100-per-cent-electric cars from UK showrooms have increased – but at a painfully slow rate.

From January to April last year, they had a mere 14.4-per cent share of the new car market. Then, in the same period of 2023, the figure crept up to 15.4 per cent.

But such a meagre increase raises doubts, worries and scepticism among manufacturers, consumers and others that the UK Government’s ban on new petrol and diesel cars simply can’t be met by January 2030. Honestly, is the EV market really ready, happy, willing and able to grab just 15.4 per cent of the pie today, but 100 per cent of it in less than seven years?

Advertisement - Article continues below

I think not – and I say that based on discussions I’ve had with concerned industry execs and real-world consumers who pay for private cars out of their own wages and are therefore mostly excluded from going down the far more expensive EV route. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has in recent days admitted that it is now “less optimistic about growth in demand” for pure EVs. The trade body is therefore “downgrading the expected market share” of such vehicles for 2023 and again for 2024 – when only about two in every 10 new cars purchased are forecast to be EVs (the remaining eight in 10 being pure petrol, pure diesel or hybrids). All this despite the industry’s current obvious and ongoing trend of putting more pure-electric and fewer diesel and petrol models into the showrooms, whether consumers like it or not.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Clearly, the business model for EVs isn’t working as well as it should. So to encourage more reluctant consumers to switch from ICE to EV, the SMMT is calling for improved infrastructure and greater “incentives” (Government subsidies and the like). But I think it should be braver and go further – by somehow persuading its motor manufacturer and car dealer members to revise their often over-ambitious EV prices and profit margins.

For longer than I can remember there have been predictions, promises and on-the-record proclamations that retail prices for pure-electric cars would fall and be on a par with those for equivalent ICE models by the mid-2020s. Well, guess what? We’ve just entered month 41 of this 120-month decade. So we’ve already reached the mid-’20s!

Yet when comparing, say, a current bottom-of-the-range Corsa petrol (at £18,585) with a bog-standard Corsa EV (at £32,430), the latter is 74 per cent more expensive. And therein lies the problem, not just for Vauxhall, but also for other makers with ICE and EV interests.

So what the bloody hell happened to those price-parity predictions, promises and proclamations? If the answer is that we’ll just have to patiently wait until the end of the mid-20s (some 39 months from now) before cars with electric motors and battery packs become as affordable as equivalent models with petrol engines and fuel tanks, it won’t work – for the manufacturers, the dealers and, more importantly, the buying public.

Click here for our list of the best electric cars on sale right now...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Mercedes says ‘no thank you’ to EQ: EV brand to be axed
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 - EQS badge
News

Mercedes says ‘no thank you’ to EQ: EV brand to be axed

Mercedes will roll back EQ branding for its electric cars as the first generation of EV models reaches the end of its lifecycle.
15 May 2024
Ooh la la: new DS flagship to get inspiration from world’s coolest car
DS flagship - exclusive image
News

Ooh la la: new DS flagship to get inspiration from world’s coolest car

The iconic Citroen DS was voted the world’s coolest car by our readers and now DS is aiming for the same success with its new premium flagship
15 May 2024
UK faces “epidemic” of young uninsured drivers
Car crash
News

UK faces “epidemic” of young uninsured drivers

The number of young people convicted of driving without insurance has tripled since 2021, due to sky-rocketing premiums
17 May 2024