Brits enjoy best ever EV choice with more than a hundred models now available

Posted on 24 May 2024 by The Manufacturer

British motorists can enjoy more battery electric vehicle (BEV) choice today than ever before, with almost a third (29.3%) of models on the new car market available as zero emission, according to new analysis by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

There are now some 102 battery electric models to choose from, up from just 16 in 2014, demonstrating the massive industry investment in new electrified technologies to drive the transition to clean transport and net zero.

Zero emission options are available in every car segment – from superminis to compact crossovers, luxury saloons and sportscars – with the choice set to grow still further thanks to a slew of electric model launches in the coming years. While major automotive manufacturers, and major nations, are committed to zero emission transport, the UK is playing a leading role as Europe’s second largest new electric car market by volume, with the number of zero emission cars on UK roads rising to a record 960,896 in 2023, and the used BEV market motoring to a new high in the first quarter of this year.

So far in 2024, demand for new BEVs is up 10.6% with more than 100,000 motorists making the switch to a new EV, enjoying battery range fit for today’s motorists. Thanks to significant investment into R&D, the average BEV range is now 236 miles, rising to nearer 300 for models launching this year. Indeed, some variants already on sale have maximum battery ranges in excess of 450 miles, more than three times the average distance drivers travel in a week.

With range anxiety moving into the rear-view mirror, the advantages of going electric are clear. Drivers able to charge at home can benefit from low-cost motoring and convenient charging, waking up every morning with a full ‘tank’ at a cost of as little as 8p per mile. BEVs benefit from cheaper servicing too, having fewer moving parts than their combustion engine equivalents, and offer a quiet and responsive drive. Nine in 10 electric car drivers say they wouldn’t go back to a conventionally fuelled vehicle and, with manufacturers offering compelling discounts on the latest BEVs, the time to switch has seldom been better.

Despite industry’s best efforts, the market has plateaued so far this year with more than eight in 10 car buyers still choosing other powertrains – mostly petrol or hybrid. Manufacturers, meanwhile, are compelled to sell ever greater numbers of BEVs under the government’s Vehicle Emissions Trading Scheme. While flexibilities in the early years mean manufacturers can meet their brand targets through different means, long term success depends on a growing market built on strong demand, especially from private buyers.

Addressing the main barriers to greater uptake, in particular, affordability and charge anxiety with measures to lower vehicle costs and improve the UK’s charging network, are essential. Providing private buyers with a similar level of fiscal incentives as those enjoyed by fleet and business buyers would help drive take-up. Temporarily halving VAT on new BEV purchases combined with cutting the VAT on public charging from 20% to 5% in line with domestic use would drive demand, putting over a quarter of a million EVs on the road instead or petrol or diesel cars.

In addition, altering the threshold for the Vehicle Excise Duty ‘expensive car’ supplement – due to apply to EVs from April 2025 for models with a list price of £40,000, which would likely capture more than half of the BEV market – would show that BEVs are necessities not luxuries, and send a further signal to the market that now is the time to switch.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Manufacturers are delivering on their promises to drive down emissions and bring ever more electric car choice to consumers. More than 100 models are now available across every segment – a six-fold increase on 10 years ago – showing the pace of change. The industry can only do so much on its own, however, and if we are to make EVs open to all and drive the net zero transformation we all need, further support is required. It’s time to reform taxes on these vehicles, to make public charging more affordable, quicken the pace of chargepoint rollout and, put to bed some of the myths about these crucial vehicles. They are the future and they’re available now.”

Action is also needed on infrastructure, with greater nationwide chargepoint installation essential for consumer confidence. While last year saw more chargepoints installed than ever before, there is currently just one standard charger available for every 35 plug-in cars on the road – a negligible improvement on 2022 when the ratio was one for every 36.

Passenger cars are leading the way in the decarbonisation of Britain’s road transport, but manufacturers are also investing in zero emission technologies for light vans, heavy goods vehicles and buses. There are now more than 25 models of electric van, 14 models of zero emission, including hydrogen, buses – the UK the leading European market for these models – and some 20 models of electric truck available in Britain.

The news comes as SMMT hosts its 44th annual Test Day event, today, giving media the opportunity to try out many of the latest new car and van models on sale in the UK. Of all the vehicles on display, around two thirds will be electrified, with more than half of these BEVs, a clear signal of how the automotive industry is committed to zero emission transport.

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