Car market

EV sales stall as motorists opt for petrol models

Car showroom Perth
Car sales are skewed towards petrol vehicles

Demand for electric cars has fallen as drivers continue to buy petrol and hybrid models, according to official figures.

EV registrations rose by just 3.8% in March (YoY) against a 10% overall rise in the new car market, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

Petrol engine sales rose 9.2%, accounting for more than half the total. Plug-in hybrids recorded a 37% increase.

The smaller rise in EVs was almost entirely due to demand from fleet and business buyers who benefit from tax reliefs not available to private buyers.

The sluggish sale of EVs comes amid continuing concerns over a lack of charging infrastructure and follows the announcement last October by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to push back the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

It also comes as manufacturers attempt to meet a government-set quota of 22% of sales coming from EVs this year. This will rise to 28% next year, 80% in 2030 and 100% in 2035.

Carmakers face fines for failing to hit the targets, levied at £15,000 per vehicle above the threshold.

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, said: “Manufacturers are providing compelling offers [to buy electric cars] but they can’t single-handedly fund the transition indefinitely.

“Government support for private consumers, not just business and fleets, would send a positive message and deliver a faster, fairer transition on time and on target.”

EVs are also in general more expensive than their petrol equivalents and the drive to sell more EVs has come at a time of high inflation and interest rates on top of the mixed messages from the government.

Manufacturers are facing the additional challenge of cheaper models arriving from China.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The number of new electric vehicles and plug-ins sold overall is higher than last year, and this is in part thanks to government grants over the past decade, £2 billion in investment and ongoing tax incentives.

“There are now over a million electric cars on our roads and we continue to help more people to make the switch to electric through schemes such as the £381 million Local Electric Vehicle fund to rollout charging infrastructure.”

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