Urgent action needed to spark private interest in EVs, say car makers

The UK’s automotive industry has called for urgent action to revive interest in electric cars among private buyers.

New figures from the SMMT show that private sales of electric vehicles have slumped compared with last year, prompting calls for the government to help stimulate the market or risk jeopardising its own ambition to cut emissions.

The body, which represents the country’s car makers, said that business registrations showed the positive effect of incentives and warned the lack of government help for private buyers was acting as a barrier to more widespread uptake.

Low benefit in kind tax rates and salary sacrifice schemes make EVs attractive to business buyers, and fleet EV registrations were up almost 11% last month compared with April 2023. But the latest figures show private buyers are still shying away from making the switch.

Private sales of all fuel types were down overall – a drop of almost 18% compared with last April – but EV uptake fell even further – down 22% year-on-year. Private purchases accounted for just one in six of all newly registered all-electric cars in April 2024.

The SMMT noted: “Drivers today enjoy the widest ever choice of BEV models – more than 100 – powered by the latest technology, and manufacturers continue to provide compelling offers to encourage their uptake. However, the lack of government incentives for private motorists remains a barrier that cannot be overcome by industry alone.”

In response to the latest figures, the SMMT has revised its forecast for BEV sales downwards by more than 5%, to 19.8% – lower than the target set in the government’s own ZEV mandate.

The body repeated its calls for the government to temporarily halve VAT on new EVs to reinvigorate interest. It also said the threshold for the ‘luxury car tax’ should be reviewed. EVs are currently exempt from the levy but from April 2025 any electric car over £40,000 will be hit by the extra tax. And it demanded more action to accelerate public charging roll-out.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the absence of government incentives for private buyers was having a “marked effect”. He commented: “Although attractive deals on EVs are in place, manufacturers cannot fund the mass market transition single-handedly.”

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA), added: “Electric vehicle sales continue to demonstrate moderate growth, but fleet remains the driving force behind new car registrations, with private demand languishing in recent months.

“With the government disappointingly ruling out introducing price incentives for electric vehicles last month, NFDA calls on the government to have an urgent rethink, particularly as many OEMs seek to meet ZEV mandate targets for this year and with private demand having declined in recent months.”

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Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.