A huge increase in the sales of electric cars last year was not enough to reboot the UK new car market.
Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rose to 144% from 15,510 in 2018 to 37,850 in 2019, but this was not enough to offset the overall market drop of 2.4% according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The figures also reveal that new registrations of diesel vehicles fell by a considerable 21.8%, and though traditional hybrid vehicles rose by 17.1%, new plug-in hybrid registrations fell by 17.8%.
BEVs held a mere 1.6% market share at the end of 2019, a long way off reaching the government’s goal of reaching a 50-70% share in the next ten years.
SMMT media manager Paul Mauerhoff said: “To grow uptake further of electrified vehicles, you do need supportive measures.
“It is still a relatively new technology, and therefore, it does come with a price premium in the early stages.”
He mentioned the cuts made to the plug-in car grant brought in in November 2018, which saw discounts on hybrid vehicles scrapped and the discount on all-electric vehicles slashed by £1000.
He added: “The evidence shows in other countries, when you do cut supportive measures then you do see a corresponding decline in uptake of such new technology.”
He thinks the key to reaching a zero emissions future is increasing these supportive and punitive measures, but also remembering that the transition will be a gradual one.
He said: “I think the key thing is about people choosing the right car for their needs, so it’s not to discount diesel and petrol because they still make up the vast majority of all new cars sold.
“Yes we want to grow the sales of electrified cars but the transition from where we are now to zero emission does need to managed quite carefully, and conventional diesel and petrol as well as hybrid vehicles, they all have a role to play as you move from where we are now to completely zero emission transport.”
Croydon Council is a prime example of local government pushing forward towards a zero emissions future.
It is committed to installing 400 electric vehicle charging points in the borough by 2022.
At the moment, 18 new bollard shaped points, which are powered by lamposts, are being activated, with plans for a further 42 to be installed in the next few months.
Councillor Stuart King, cabinet lead for environment and transport, said: “We are proactively inviting residents to let us know where they want charging infrastructure.”
He added: “The desire to do the right thing I think is the principal motivating factor for people’s decision to switch to electric.
“In putting this infrastructure in, we’re trying to make sure that there are as few as possible barriers to residents being able to make the switch.”
He criticised the government’s own plans as weak and not sufficiently grasping the urgency of the situation, and revealed that a shocking 200 people die in Croydon every year as a result of pollution.
He said: “Because those deaths are to some degree hidden, it hasn’t been seen by people as the public health emergency and crisis that that we see it as, and so that’s why we have an air quality action plan and this is one of 50 different actions in it.”
As an alternative method of boosting the numbers of electric cars on UK roads, the London Electric Car Company converts existing conventionally fuelled cars into electric cars.
Founded by Matthew Quitter, the company grew out of a desire for people to electrify their current vehicles, mostly classic cars, which suit those who only need to drive short distances in densely populated cities like London.
Simon Green, who works for the company in both communications and the garage, said: “The most common questions I have about the limitations of electric cars are a reflection of what people think, ‘Well, I can only travel 100 miles on one charge’, when the average journey within London is only a few miles.
“Even outside of London, it is nowhere near 100 miles, and so the actual practical implications of owning a car and having these limitations are a lot less than people think.”
The company engineer and design all the electric packages themselves, installing batteries and utilising the same technologies used to power cars like Tesla and the Nissan Leaf.
They don’t come cheap, with the basic package giving coming in at £20,000 and prices climbing as high as £90,000-100,000 for extras like more mileage.
Mr Green thinks that in terms of being environmentally-friendly, electric vehicles are the way forward, with major improvements being made in the way the technology can be recycled.
He said: “People are now only scrapping the bits that don’t work rather than scrapping the whole package, which makes a massive difference.
“Secondly, where the technology has become so more prevalent, so has the technology to recycle the batteries.”
He added: “I think we are getting there, I think that the conversation about being environmentally friendly is definitely a common one.”
With new developments in technology, we are clearly on the right path to the end goal of zero emissions.
If the government can provide more support, we may just get there.
Feature image: MikesPhotos/Pixabay