Press release

6 Jun 2022

Tipping point reached as more nearly half of UK car buyers seek electric vehicle for the first time

EY survey: 49% of UK car buyers want an electric vehicle

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Adam Holden

Senior Manager, Media Relations, Ernst & Young LLP

Passionate media relations and public relations professional helping to provide insight and clarity to complex business issues. Husband and father to twin boys, and a golden retriever.

  • EY survey: 49% of UK car buyers want an electric vehicle

  • Appetite for electric vehicles rises 21 points in just two years

  • Upfront costs and lack of charging infrastructure seen as most significant barriers for first time EV buyers in the UK

The number of UK consumers looking to buy electric vehicles (EVs) has hit a tipping point, according to the latest EY Mobility Consumer Index. The research shows that nearly half of respondents (49%) looking to buy a car would choose an EV – representing an increase from 21% percentage in just two years. 

The survey of 13,000 people in 18 countries shows that car buyers in Italy (73%), China (69%) and South Korea (63%) are the most committed to buying an EV, while consumers in Australia (38%) and the US (29%) are the least committed.   

Rising penalties on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles are cited as the main driver to buy an EV in the UK (46%), followed by environmental concerns (45%). 

The survey also shows that those looking to buy an EV are willing to pay a premium. Nearly ninety percent (87%) say they would pay more, and 32% are willing to pay a premium of 20% or more. 

Maria Bengtsson, EY Electric Vehicle Leader, UK&I, commented:  

“These findings truly mark a tipping point in the UK car-buying market. Nearly 50% of consumers across the UK indicating that they want an EV is a significant milestone in the transition from ICE to EVs. The speed of this change has also been eye-opening, with a rise of 28% in just two years of potential buyers who would opt for an EV over an ICE vehicle.  

“There is no doubt that rising fuel rises have played their part in making internal combustion engines more expensive to run in the UK, but rising penalties – such as inner-city congestion charging and environmental concerns – remain top of the list of motivators. Consumers are becoming increasingly socially and environmentally conscious, and they’re willing to pay a premium to meet their environmental standards. It is now up to the industry to meet this demand. If manufacturers are not aware of this trend already, they’re behind the curve and they need to catch up fast.”    

Key inhibitors to purchasing an EV 

Although EVs are increasing in popularity, upfront purchase costs have emerged as a key inhibitor for new UK buyers in 2022 with 45% of respondents saying this is the biggest barrier to EV adoption. However, that said, this has fallen significantly since the 2021 survey when 65% of respondents saw it as a key barrier to adoption.  

Lack of charging stations and infrastructure in cities and towns and on travel routes was the second most significant inhibitor (38%), followed by range anxiety (30%) – how far an EV can travel on a single charge. 

Bengtsson adds: “Charging infrastructure remains an area of concern, from both consumers and charge point operators. As well as lack of charging stations, consumers often cite the reliability of charge points as a key concern in charging vehicles. Pain points for charge point operators include permitting and accessing the grid. The planning application process with local authorities can be both long and complicated and gaining access to public real estate is often cited as a complex process. A collaborative approach between charge point operators, local authorities and energy companies is essential if the UK is to fulfill the demand of current and future EV drivers.” 

Charging range confidence 

The survey also shows that those who already own EVs are less worries about range anxiety. The majority of UK respondents who are potential EV buyers (56%) are comfortable with a range of up to 200 miles from a single charge and over 40% prefer at least 300 miles.  

David Borland, EY Automotive Lead, UK&I, commented: “It is clear range anxiety for potential EV buyers still exists. However, we know that the vast majority of journeys are relatively short, and as charging infrastructure continues to grow and battery quality continues to increase, we will start to see these concerns fade.”