Car industry calls on government to aid private buyers in EV switch

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the UK government to offer greater incentives to encourage private buyers to swap to electric cars as part of a new ‘blueprint’ to guide the switch to EVs.

The call for greater incentives, which comes shortly after the UK government cut the plug-in car grant for EV buyers, is based on new SMMT research showing that business and fleet buyers are twice as likely to switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles.

According to the SMMT, private buyers registered 34,324 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) last year – 4.6% of the private car market – compared with the 73,881 brought by fleets and businesses, representing 8.7% of the total vehicles bought by firms. Currently, businesses and company car drivers are offered more incentives than private buyers to switch to EVs, due to the saving on reduced purchase taxes.

The SMMT believes that preserving plug-in car grants and providing consumer VAT exemption could increase EV uptake by almost two-thirds by 2026, and it has also called on both the government and stakeholders to address the concerns of private buyers by committing to a major expansion of public charging infrastructure.

The UK is due to ban the sale of all non-zero-emission cars by 2035, with only emission-free machines and hybrids capable of a significant level of emission-free running allowed after 2030. The new SMMT blueprint is designed to help guide the industry transition to that date and was launched at the SMMT Electrified summit.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “While last year’s bumper uptake of electric vehicles is to be welcomed, it’s clear this has been an electric revolution primarily for fleets, not families. 

“To deliver an electric revolution that is affordable, achievable and accessible to all by 2030, government and other stakeholders must put ordinary drivers at the heart of policy and planning. We need incentives that tempt consumers, infrastructure that is robust and charging points that provide reassurance, so that zero-emission mobility will be possible for everyone, regardless of income or location.”