Motorists in the dark over Government grants for electric cars


SPA Future Thinking, the business intelligence research consultancy, has today revealed the findings of Automotive Trends 2015  (pdf), an independent study of the UK automotive sector. The survey monitors the sentiments of over 1,200 consumers that either own (56%) or are intending to purchase (44%) a car.

Industry figures highlight that sales of electric vehicles have started strongly in 2015 following up on fourfold increases* in sales of both electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2014. According to the report, which uses market intelligence to determine future trends in the industry, two thirds (64%) of respondents said they would consider purchasing an electric or hybrid car in the future, or already own one. Fuel economy and reduced running costs (56%) is the most persuading factor that would encourage motorists to buy an electric or hybrid car, followed by the vehicle’s purchase price (52%) and miles per full charge (44%). Interestingly the first environmental reason given relates to impact on the environment at 27%; indicating that going green needs to be balanced against a host of factors including reliability, technology and crucially price.

However, over a third (37%) of respondents would not consider purchasing electric or hybrid vehicles, principally because of dissuading factors such as not enough charging points (42%), the range of the car (36%) and the infancy of the technology (31%).  Please see below for a table of the top five encouraging and discouraging factors:

Encouraging factors

Discouraging factors


Fuel economy (running costs)



Not enough charging points



Purchase price



Purchase price



Miles per full charge



Range (miles per charge)






Speed of recharging



Reassurance on battery life



Limited distribution of recharging points



The report also reveals an apparent lack of awareness around Government grants for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. At present, motorists buying new electric cars can claim a grant of 25% off the cost of the car – up to a maximum of £5,000 – a scheme that has recently been extended to 2017. Only a quarter of respondents (25%) had heard of the £200 million scheme, indicating a lack of communication around the policy. Upon learning about the scheme, 35% said they would be more encouraged to purchase an electric car.

Richard Barton, Group Managing Director of SPA Future Thinking, comments on the report findings:

“Given the widespread media attention around environmentally-friendly technological advances within the industry, it is clear that this excitement has not yet filtered down to consumers’ purchase intentions.

“There are a number of reasons for this, but it seems price is a fundamental barrier to entry. Our business intelligence shows that over a third of motorists believe electric cars are too expensive, thereby restricting the number of new customers entering the market.

“In addition, 23% of motorists are concerned about the lack of choice available when looking to purchase an electric car. Desirable, aesthetically-pleasing models need to enter the market in order to appeal to a wider audience and create that ‘must-have’ feeling among consumers.

“Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome is motorists’ perception is that the recharging infrastructure is unsufficient with not enough charging points. Reassuring consumers of the technology’s reliability is the next step which should also help to bolster the residual values and making them more economically viable. Both the government, through its grant scheme, and manufacturers, through strategic marketing, must do more to improve customer awareness of environmentally-friendly automotive technologies.”