Electric cars ‘too expensive’ for Londoners to switch from diesel

February 02, 2017

The motor industry has urged the UK government to tackle the prohibitively high premiums for electric cars, after a new poll showed 65% of Londoners believe insurance premiums for electric vehicles (EVs) are too high. This is despite the fact that 70% of Londoners have grave concerns about air pollution and appreciate the need to switch to EVs.  

The survey for the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) showed the majority of Londoners were either unwilling or unable to pay the premiums currently levied on electric and hybrid cars, with insurers charging up to 50% more for cover.  

The higher costs are due to the higher purchase price of the electric vehicles and, crucially, also the lack of skilled mechanics able to service and repair them. Currently only 1% of UK mechanics have the qualifications necessary to work on the vehicles’ high-tech electric systems, with most of these employed within franchised dealers.  

IMI chief executive Steve Nash said:Millions of [pounds in] taxpayers’ cash spent on charging points will be wasted if the Government won’t help independent garages and the wider industry keep up with the switch to electric.  

It’s not rocket science. Small businesses are uncertain about future demand for work on electrified cars and won’t risk investing in the skills they need without help from the Government.  

This means insurance and servicing costs will stay out of the reach of many drivers and car buyers will still be attracted to diesel cars as the most fuel efficient alternative, keeping them on our roads in significant numbers for decades to come.  

This problem is only likely to get worse after Britain withdraws from the European labour pool after leaving the European Union.  

While the study found that more than two-thirds of London motorists are concerned about the shortage of convenient charging points available for electric and hybrid cars, the government is addressing this with development support and Transport for London has promised to expand its own network.  

Thus the focus is squarely on the skills shortage gap, because the motor industry has accused the UK government for failing to address this with the same fortitude. It has called for a £30 million (€35 million) investment in training, to address this barrier to public adoption of electric vehicles. It says this does not have to be new money, but can come from the £600 million (€706 million) fund it has allocated to the development of the electric charging infrastructure.  

The need for further policy initiatives in Europe to boost EVs is clear. The latest ACEA data for the fourth quarter of 2016 shows demand for alternative fuel vehicles in the EU increased only moderately (1.2%). While EV (battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars) sales in the UK increased by 38.6% to a total of 37,000 units in 2016, this still only equates to a paltry 1.4% market share.  

Labour London Assembly member Leonie Copper told The Evening Standard: ‘The skills issue is a major obstacle that the Department for Transport needs to address as a matter of urgency.  

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rachael Maskell MP, said:The reality at the moment is that motorists are effectively penalised for choosing greener options. For that to change the government needs to step up and invest more in clean fuel vehicles, as well as the infrastructure and skills needed to support, service and maintain them.

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March 31, 2017

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