Is the Electric Car Revolution Really Upon Us?

Over the last 6 weeks, the movement behind electric cars has been given a real kick up the backside. Volvo has announced that it will become the first major car manufacturer to go all electric in 2019, and BMW will be creating an electric version of the Mini in the same year. What’s more, the government has even announced that new diesel and petrol vehicles are to be banned in the UK from 2040.

At first glance this is certainly a bold and impressive move by car manufacturers and the government alike, but the main question still remains – will consumers really get behind the apparent electric car revolution?

Is there an appetite for electric cars?

Whilst in an ideal world everyone buying electric and running on 0% emissions is a perfect answer to some of the pollution and environmental issues we’re facing today, but it’s a completely different story when it comes to actually having people put their money where their mouth is.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company which analysed the perception and uptake of electric cars around the US and Europe showed some interesting trends; In the US, 30 percent of car buyers admitted to considering buying an electric car, but only 3% actually went ahead and did so. Similarly in Europe, Germany showed that 45 percent of their consumers are thinking about buying electric cars, but only 4% are actually turning it in to a reality, showing some telling signs in the way people think and act around electric motors.

Are people avoiding electric cars?

Whilst the intentions of buyers are still massively in the majority for petrol and diesel vehicles, electric cars are still seeing significant growth. The number of electric vehicles has increased from just a handful around the world in the mid 2000’s, to one million in 2015, and then with a further increase of 60% in 2016, taking the grand total of electric cars on our roads to over two million worldwide.

These are obviously very encouraging signs for the electric car industry (and indeed now Volvo and BMW) but with the majority of buyers still preferring petrol or diesel engines, what exactly is it about electric that puts people off?

Well first of all electric is still relatively expensive, with an electric car being around £8,000 more than a regular diesel or petrol car. However the UK government does offer a grant of around £5,000 which should offset at least some of this cost, if not all. So if it’s not the cost that is putting people off converting their idealism in to a reality, then what else could it be?

The most obvious alternative is infrastructure; with most consumers not having easy access to charging points for their vehicles. At the moment charging plugs for vehicles in the UK is currently at around 13,000, with the huge bulk of these located in large cities across the country. There are plans to increase this however, with the number of charging points in the UK set to increase to around 80,000 over the next 7 years, which would easily meet consumer demand as sales increase.

An alternative reason for consumer avoidance could be ‘range anxiety’. It’s been long perceived that electric cars just can’t travel the distance needed by most consumers, making it an unworthy choice by most. However with the increase in both the performance of electric cars and the amount of charging points available, this reason will soon be null and void for most of us.

Is the future truly going to be electric?

So whilst most consumers have their reservations about electric, it’s clear that understanding in this area is lacking and removes the will of a buyer to turn their electric car dreams in to a reality. For businesses like Volvo and BMW who are already betting on this as the future, educating and empowering consumers with the ability to make more informed decisions around electric and dismiss the current myths surround it are of paramount importance.

At the moment it’s clear that the uptake of electric cars will continue to increase year on year, however without a clear change in consumer perception, wide adoption across the country and the world may just be some time away yet.

Glenn Simpson, Senior Account Executive, Technology