This year could be the tipping point for the UK new car market: the point where electric cars cease to become just a headline and move into the realm of viable transport for a significant proportion of the population.
But what does that mean for the future of the British car industry and for the people who buy its products? In the latest of our Autocar Business Live webinars, we spoke to Alison Jones, the Stellantis senior vice-president and UK head of Citroën, DS and Peugeot, and Richard Parry-Jones, a former Ford chief technical officer and past chairman of the Automotive Council, to answer this question and more.
Are customers buying into the total cost of ownership of EVs, rather than what people have been used to in terms of a simple monthly PCP bill?
One thing is clear: electric cars are disrupting not only the technology in the car itself but also the way that people think about what a car might cost.
Jones is of the opinion that it’s still necessary to educate customers to consider the total cost of ownership of an EV compared with an ICE car, rather than just the sale price.
She said: “On the retail side [for private customers] it’s harder, because you have more variables.
“PCP deals are a key way people buy cars in retail, so you have a conversation about the monthly cost for that and then have to talk about the lower monthly running costs [of an EV].
“But that’s not the only thing customers are thinking about. They also think switching to an EV is a big step in terms usage, because of the differences between cars, with factors such as range anxiety, charging infrastructure and where they can charge their vehicles.
“The price you pay for a new electric vehicle isn’t the only consideration for potential customers. There are other barriers people are thinking about, which are maybe bigger barriers at this time.
“That’s why the plug-in hybrids are a great step – the ones that run up to 30 or 40 miles [on electricity alone]. The psychology of how it feels to live with a low-emission vehicle can be really overcome with PHEV.
“Plug-ins give you some reassurance if you’re a one-car family, and they’re already a good contributor to reducing emissions.”
What kind of plug-in hybrids will be allowed after 2030?
Both Jones and Parry-Jones were clear that a solution is needed to make sure plug-in hybrids are used as they’re intended: to be charged up whenever possible.
Jones said: “From the discussions we’ve had, which are part of the industry discussion, that’s still subject to the detailed work that needs to be undertaken. They have to be efficient and [the sort of car] that you can do an average journey on. Knowing that they’re being charged overnight is a really important part of the work that we need to do with the government to demonstrate how consumers are using them. They have to be efficient.”