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Electric vehicles perceived as too expensive for majority of buyers

  • 49% of consumers open to idea of switching to EVs but only if they become cheaper or concerns over range and battery life are overcome
  • Survey identifies emergence of three distinct groups of environmentally aware car buyers
  • Research of in-market buyers on Motors.co.uk identifies price, battery life and charging time as main obstacles to EV adoption

25 November 2020 With the recent government announcement to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, eBay Motors Group research has found car buyers are reluctant to commit to electric vehicles (EVs) citing high purchase costs, concerns over battery life and recharging times.

The Consumer Insight Panel research, which polled the views of in-market buyers visiting Motors.co.uk, was undertaken to identify how environmental considerations are impacting car purchasing decisions.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents said EVs are too expensive compared to traditional fuel types, with 49% saying they would switch to EVs if they became cheaper. Only 16% of buyers expect to buy an electric car in the next three years.

Over half (52%) said they would buy an EV if battery life was longer, while 51% said they would switch if it took less than 20 minutes to fully charge. Charging points were also a big issue with just 16% of buyers agreeing with the statement: 'There are enough electric charging points to cater for vehicle usage in the UK'.

While half of the respondents said they would switch to an EV if it had a range of over 300 miles from a single charge. 

"The limited supply of EVs into the used car market is making them too expensive for many buyers to consider and this is being compounded by concerns over just how long batteries will last and charging times," said Dermot Kelleher, head of marketing and research at eBay Motors Group.

"These issues will gradually be addressed as higher volumes of newer generation EVs filter through to the used market.

"Also with the government bringing forward its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030, attitudes towards the environment are likely to become more important considerations for car buyers; especially if ownership becomes more widespread and word of mouth starts to influence perceptions and buying behaviour," he said.

"However, unless there is a significant ramp up in the number and affordability of electric cars, adoption is likely to lag behind legislation."

When it comes to environmental considerations, car buyers expressed more concern about plastic waste than vehicle emissions.

When asked to rank their concerns, plastic waste was rated the highest (58%), followed by loss of natural habitats (39%), emissions from manufacturing industries (37%) was in third place, and CO2 vehicle emissions (34%) and sewage pollution in seas and rivers (34%) in joint fourth place.

"Vehicle emissions are only going to move up the buyer agenda as the government ban comes closer. As an industry, we have an opportunity to do more to raise awareness of emissions and ensure that buyers are well informed about these as part of their consideration process," said Kelleher.

On the subject of climate change, the research identified the emergence of three distinct groups of car buyers. Consumers who are "Committed" (24%) to making a difference, those without strong views choosing to "Sit on the Fence" (43%) and a "Dismissive" (33%) group who believe climate change is exaggerated and think their actions are pointless. 

When asked what would motivate them to buy a more environmentally friendly car than their current vehicle the "Committed" group said legislation; "On The Fence" buyers said financial benefits; while the "Dismissive" group favoured car-related considerations such as performance.

"We hope by identifying three groups of car buyers that dealers can better understand how environmental concerns can influence choice. When it comes to selling EVs, framing conversations around cost savings and performance are likely to resonate more with some customers than just the need to align with legislation."

The research also asked buyers to identify the car manufacturers they consider to be the most sustainable and environmentally friendly with Tesla, the all-electric brand, taking the top position.

Consumer Insight Panel research -- Top 10 Green Carmakers 

    1. Tesla (27.1%)

    2. Toyota (20.6%)

    3. BMW (16.7%)

    4. Ford (16.1%)

    5. Honda (14.4%)

    6. Volvo (14.0%)

    7. Nissan (13.4%)

    8. Audi (12.0%)

    9. Mercedes-Benz (11.3%)

    10. Volkswagen (10.5%)

About the Consumer Insight Panel research
The Consumer Insight Panel research was conducted online with 627 adult visitors to Motors.co.uk between 1-17 September 2020.