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Lagging EV Sales in UK Compared to the Rest of Europe

Electric vehicles are the taking the world by storm. In the UK, it is a different story.

A report by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has shown that total electric chargeable vehicle (ECV) registrations in Europe – including battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) – have increased by 40 per cent on average in the first quarter of 2019. Leading European countries such as France and Germany have seen high numbers of ECV units being sold, and significant increases in registrations of 33.0 and 32.7 per cent, respectively. Yet in the UK, we have seen increases of just 2.9 per cent, the slowest growth seen in the UK in recent years.

So, why are we seeing this difference in the UK?

The UK’s lag in ECV sales may be down to recent changes made by the UK government. We have recently seen subsidies cut and grants eliminated. The subsidies for pure electric cars have been cut by £1000, and the previous grant for hybrid cars as been eliminated. This has pushed up the electric vehicle (EV) price and may be contributing to the stagnant growth in electric car sales in the UK. Similar trends have been seen in the US, with a steep decline in the delivery of the Model 3 Sedan after Tesla’s loss of the US federal tax credit.

The demand for electric cars is still not as high as diesel and petrol vehicles and other alternatives. Just 1 per cent of global car sales go to EVs. The lack of middle ground EVs may be contributing to this stunted growth. The luxury premium vehicles are trying to break into the mass market cheaper vehicle.

Not only is there an issue with demand, but supply also appears to be a problem. The high price of batteries means that manufacturers are struggling to make the volumes that are required whilst still making good profits on the car.

It’s not just electric cars that are suffering; the UK is just not making cars anymore. Honda’s Swindon plant will close by 2021, and Jaguar Land Rover’s new Defender will be built in Slovakia. Following this trend, the UK-based company Dyson has chosen to do the manufacturing of its first electronic car in Singapore.

Yet some success has been seen in the UK, such as with the Nissan Leaf. It has been very popular, with 360, 000 units sold in 2018. Manufacturing is based in Sunderland and is supporting the UK’s EV industry. However, it has been suggested that Nissan too will move manufacturing for their next EV model.

We have seen changing trends in the UK EV industry in recent years, but what does the future hold?

Dyson’s chosen manufacturing location, Singapore, exemplifies the benefit of incentives for EV manufacturers. Depending on the number of people employed, manufacturers can negotiate corporate tax down to 5 per cent or less. Dyson will also have tariff free exports into Europe thanks to a recent trade deal between Singapore and the EU. These incentives are drawing big companies like Dyson away; whilst in the UK Brexit provides some uncertainty for the EV market.

Source: Will Bedingfield, WIRED – Why the UK’s lagging behind in the booming electric car revolution

The stagnation of current growth in the UK has the potential for change. The UK government has invested £23m into electric car battery development under The Faraday Battery Challenge in a bid to keep the UK at the forefront of electric car development. This investment will also contribute to the ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

As part of The Faraday Battery Challenge, MIVOLT is being used to test an immersion cooled battery pack concept with WMG and Ricardo. Find out more about the i-CoBat project here.