Ross Clark Ross Clark

Why are fewer people buying electric cars?

Credit: Getty images

The rebellion of 26 Conservative MPs against the government’s zero electric vehicle (ZEV) mandate couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Prime Minister. The ZEV will compel manufacturers to ensure that, from 1 January,  at least 22 per cent of their car sales are pure electric. Yet simultaneously comes news of a collapse in sales of electric cars.  

There is little other interpretation to put on the figures for new car sales in November put out by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) today. Electric cars have had an appalling month, with sales down 17.1 per cent on November last year. This, in a month when overall cars sales were 9.5 per cent higher than a year earlier. Motorists seems to be abandoning pure electric cars, although they are buying hybrids. Sales of mild hybrids were up 30.1 per cent over the year and those of plug-in hybrids 55.8 per cent. Sales of petrol cars were also up over the year, by 7.4 per cent, taking a market share of 39.5 per cent.

 True, electric cars had a particularly good November last year, when they accounted for 20.6 per cent of all sales. This November that was down to a 15.6 per cent market share. Looking over the past couple of years, electric car sales have stalled at around one sixth of the market. This really matters to the motor industry because from January manufacturers will be on a mandate to make sure that at least 22 per cent of their output is pure electric cars, a proportion that will rise steadily to 80 per cent by 2030. These targets were not touched by Rishi Sunak when he relaxed the 2030 ban on petrol cars back in September. Manufacturers face having to pay fines for every vehicle that they fall short, of around £15,000 per car, although their exact level has yet to be confirmed.

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