Car makers have invested billions of pounds in an ever-growing range of electrified vehicles, many of which were on display at a special test drive event, hosted in a socially distanced way, at Millbrook Proving Ground this week. The first ever SMMT Drive Zero brought together plug-in and hydrogen vehicles from more than 20 car and van brands, with consumers, politicians, government officials and media all keen to get into the latest EV models.
This huge investment is driving demand for zero emission-capable vehicles, which enjoyed a bumper August as a result of new models coming to market, with sales of plug-in hybrids increasing by 221.1% and registrations of battery electric cars up by 77.6% in the month.
From flexible plug-in hybrids, to full battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, these cars are already available in all shapes and sizes, including city run-arounds and family hatches, SUVs, saloons and sports cars and at different price points.
However, they still represent a fraction of overall sales, and new consumer research commissioned by SMMT shows that nearly half of motorists are still not ready for a 2035 switch away from conventional powertrains, with higher purchase prices and charging concerns holding buyers back.
That’s why the UK automotive industry is calling for binding targets on charging infrastructure development and long-term commitments to incentivise the purchase of zero emission capable vehicles to accelerate demand.
In the past five years, the range of zero emission capable car models available in the UK has trebled to more than 80, with some 200 more in the pipeline over the coming years. For customer demand to keep pace, at least 2.8 million new public charging points will have to be built by 2035, an investment worth £16.7bn and equivalent to 507 new charge points needed every day.
Also crucial will be the continuation of the Plug-in Grant and its re-introduction for plug-in hybrids – a technology critical to the transition to zero emission motoring, giving higher mileage drivers reassuring flexibility and delivering environmental benefits now. It is essential that the government and other sectors step up and match the commitment from manufacturers’ to a zero emission future, otherwise the UK risks being stuck in the slow lane.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone that supported SMMT Drive Zero this week, especially all the manufacturers, staff and event partners Millbrook Proving Ground, Off Grid Energy, Siemens, Savanta, AutoTrader, Electrifying.com and Newspress.