Are electric cars losing their spark for buyers?

Love them or loathe them, electric cars are the next big thing in personal transport. The mounting climate crisis means that rising numbers of increasingly conscientious consumers are on the lookout for cars that let them keep the luxury of driving, but without inflicting the environmental toll of petrol and diesel cars. Electric cars are still notably more expensive than other types, but even so, their outlook was positive at the top of 2020, with growing numbers of consumers registering new EVs.

And then… well, you know what happened. Covid-19 brought the nation to a literal standstill as national lockdown measures were imposed. For months, the UK’s roads were largely deserted. Now new research suggests that interest in electric cars may well have dwindled, which leaves petrol and diesel cars to be the most popular options, both in dealerships and in our own online vehicle auctions. But as you’ll see, the whole story isn’t quite that simple.

Electric cars by the numbers

All the way back in February, which probably seems like an eternity by now, the AA conducted a survey for more than 17,000 motorists. It found that 47% of them would consider an electric vehicle when they next changed their car - almost half of them!

However, six months later in August, price-comparison site USwitch conducted its own survey of 2000 adults, and found that only 19% of them were thinking about buying an EV, with just 11% expecting to buy one within the next two years. 

These are the first hints that perhaps the enthusiasm for electric cars is fading amongst buyers. Automotive classifieds giant Auto Trader seems to support this, reporting that searches for electric vehicles on its websites are now at about 4%, down from 16% before lockdown. 

Now, there are probably a couple of reasons for this, but most of them will boil down to a simple fact - after the devastating financial impact of Covid-19, it’s likely that more buyers simply can’t afford the relatively high purchase prices of most electric cars. In the words of one Auto Trader official, car buyers are probably going back to the types of vehicles with which they’re most familiar, namely petrol and diesel. 

But the buzz hasn’t faded yet

Before we draw too many concrete conclusions, there are a couple of things it’s worth taking into account. First of all, the sample size differs drastically between the AA’s survey and that of USwitch, which can skew the results. (1% of the respondents in AA’s group are equivalent to 85% of the respondents in USwitch’s group.) So until further surveys can bear up this conclusion into the longer term, we shouldn’t assume that buyers are giving up on their electric car ambitions just yet!

And just to provide further proof that statistics aren’t always straightforward, sales of electric cars are currently still booming. By the end of July 2020, there had already been a total of 8162 EV registrations throughout the year. When you compare that to the same period in 2019, that’s an impressive boost of 175%. The figure becomes even more significant when you take into account the fact that so many UK car dealerships had to close for months throughout the pandemic.

A big draw of electric cars is the savings that they can offer buyers, as they’re often cheaper to fuel (and therefore to maintain) over the course of their operational lifetime. However, while they can often work out as being cheaper over the total ownership period, the higher upfront purchase costs will still prove to be a barrier to many otherwise-willing EV buyers for the moment, many of whom will stick with petrol and diesel for now.

If you’re on the lookout for a used or seized car yourself, you can find all sorts in our online salvage car auctions right here at RAW2K. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always new deals to be had, and we’ve got vehicles from a range of leading manufacturers including Vauxhall, Renault and Ford. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?