What’s holding the electric car market back?

In 2016, there were around two million electric vehicles (EVs) on roads worldwide, making up just 0.2% of global car stock. Growth seemed to be accelerating rapidly as the number of EVs and hybrids in the EU rose 54% in the first half of 2017. However, this appears to have slowed so far in 2018 with this figure falling to 33% over the first six months of the year, according to consultancy firm EY.

The report, released earlier this week, blames the distance EVs are capable of driving on a single charge and the “patchy” network of charging points for this deceleration in growth.

 “Charging infrastructure remains inadequate and the models currently available mostly don’t offer good enough range.”

Peter Fuss, EY Partner


The pressure is on to change this as governments and carmakers across Europe have new emissions targets to hit. The UK is set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Other EU governments have set similar or more ambitious targets. Norway has said that it aims to ban fossil fuel-based cars by 2025. The Federal Administrative Court in Germany ruled earlier this year that cities can ban diesel cars in order to combat air pollution. China, the world’s biggest car market announced last year that it also has plans underway for a ban on combustion engines.

Pressure on carmakers has been exacerbated by the slump in demand for new diesel cars across the EU, despite these vehicles emitting around 20% less CO2 than their petrol equivalents. Drivers have been put off diesel by the prospect of bans in cities or the heavily publicised emissions cheating scandals in recent years and sales of new petrol cars have increased by 16%.

While EY’s report focuses on infrastructure issues, the AA has highlighted the concerns that drivers in the UK have about EVs that are putting them off making the switch to electric. A survey of 10,293 drivers carried out in June 2018 highlighted some common concerns over the practicalities of owning an electric car:

  • 85% of respondents felt that there aren’t enough public charging points available.
  • 76% said that EVs don’t have enough range per charge.
  • 76% said EVs are too expensive.
  • 67% said EVs take too long to charge.
  • 67% said there aren’t enough models to choose from.

The AA has produced an infographic which challenges these perceptions.

The survey also highlighted a generational difference in attitudes toward EVs. 50% of those aged 25-34 said they would like to own an EV, however, only 29% of those aged 45-54 responded that they would like an electric car.

In response to these results, the AA’s president Edmund King said: “The younger generation, in particular, are ready to embrace the electric revolution.” He added: “The range, charging speed and charging point infrastructure are all on the increase. There needs to be a more concerted effort by us to sell the benefits of electric vehicles.”

Indeed, there has been a vast improvement in battery technology and battery costs are down 70% since 2010. The range of these batteries has also improved dramatically, with some able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge.

Governments, carmakers and the automotive industry at large will have to assuage the concerns of our drivers if emissions targets are to be hit in the near future.