EVs on a charge in the UK
Politically, geographically, and socially, us Brits are divided about a lot of subjects—for instance, the irony of living in the “United” Kingdom. And when it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), the situation is no different. Opinions are strong on both sides of the argument. The “pro” side tells everyone who will listen how revolutionary, quiet, and cheap to run EVs are, while the “anti” side highlights the negatives, from the range to the price to the lack of charging infrastructure.
But the results of the UK Car of the Year Awards 2020 has revealed that, when it comes to competition’s 29 judges (comprising a selection of the country’s senior motoring journalists), battery EVs (BEVs) can do little wrong. In the first round of voting, the jurors chose their winners from categories split into vehicle segments; of the nine categories in 2020, three of the top vehicles were electric. The Best Executive car was the Tesla Model 3, Kia’s e-Niro was voted Best Crossover, and the Taycan won the Best Performance category for Porsche.
In the end, the final round of voting—where all of the category winners fought it out against each other—saw the Model 3 triumph by a single point over the e-Niro. The Taycan joint third place finish meant that 21 of the 29 judges voted for one of the EV trio.
The UK Car of the Year Awards is no stranger to recognizing innovation in the form of alternative vehicles or revolutionary technology. The inaugural winner in 2014 was the BMW i3 and 12 months later the same company scooped the main prize again, that time with the i8. Following the Jaguar I-Pace’s win in 2019, the Model 3 makes it back-to-back wins again for electric power in the competition.
Based on the results of that one set of awards, the product is right, so maybe the stumbling block is the end user. A recent study showed that British public are quite happy to do their bit in the fight against climate change, but only on their terms. For example, while 65% of respondents said they would cut back on their plastic use in 2020, only 3% said they would consider buying an electric car.
When the market share for EVs in the UK was only 1.6% in 2019, that 3% could be understandable, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Electrified cars as a whole accounted for a record 11.9% market share in January 2020 and that figure is set to rise further through the year. From April, company car tax will be set at 0% for electric cars and, given that over half the cars sold in the UK are via company car schemes or to fleets, expect many “user-choosers” to go electric.
At the same time, there is more choice for consumers, with more and more EVs coming onto the market all of the time. The new models have bigger ranges—something that UK buyers are keen on, having got used to the hundreds of miles afforded to them from diesel-powered cars. The charging infrastructure—which, on closer inspection, is more than adequate for the current number of vehicles—also continues to expand, with more rapid chargers being installed as well as a greater number of domestic charging points being fitted to new and existing homes.