2021. THE TIPPING POINT FOR EVS IN THE UK?
Back in November 2019, when global pandemics were the stuff of science fiction and the reality of BREXIT was yet to sink in to the collective consciousness, a company specialising in the development of simulation software for the EV industry held a conference at Silverstone. Having a passing interest in the world of electric vehicles, a love for the home of British motorsport and never one to turn down a free lunch, I attended.
What I heard at that conference completely changed my perception of the development of the EV market. Highly talented designers described some of the incredible developments taking place in battery technology, charging infrastructure and vehicle design. BEVs (Battery Electric vehicles) were, they confidently predicted, the future of personal transportation.
The main takeaway for me, however, from what was a fascinating experience was the prediction by an industry expert that the tipping point for EV sales would happen in 2024 – a year when he forecast that EV sales would outstrip convention ICE-powered vehicles. I went back to my employers armed with this information, only to be laughed at. “It’ll never happen!” they said. “You can’t get the range, there’s nowhere to charge and besides, EVs can’t compete with the convenience of filling up with petrol!”
Looking back on those exchanges, I have to say that the nay-sayers were right and the industry expert was wrong. The tipping point won’t be in three years time – it’s happening now.
Data provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) for UK new car registrations in August 2021 shows that overall sales for new vehicles were down by 22% year-on-year. This is not surprising given the hit that the economy took post-COVID and the difficulty of obtaining new vehicles due to parts shortages.
A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals a different story. Registrations for electric vehicles, both Plug-In Hybrids and BEVs, increased by 46% in August compared to the same month in 2020. Sales for vehicles which were either fully electric or with a degree of hybridisation, were up by 42%.
This is in stark contrast to the sales of fossil-fueled vehicles that were down by 46%
This data is very interesting of course but these were sales before the biggest game-changer of them all – the fuel crisis which began in late September.
During the first weekend of lengthy queues for what little fuel remained in forecourt tanks, with many fuel stations having run dry, dealers of electric vehicles reported a huge increase in interest.
“People were using it as ‘this is the moment where I’m not going to put off buying an EV any longer’,” said one dealer.
Another dealer commented that he expected interest to continue rising with the fuel shortages “adding fuel to the fire”.
The world of social media has also taken notice. A dealer of prestige vehicles based in Kent, well-known in the influencer world for his dislike of EVs, suddenly announced on a podcast, during a discussion about the fuel shortage, that he was going to add an electric vehicle to his fleet.
“I can’t be in this situation again,” he said. “I’ve got a business to run and I have to be mobile. I have to have an EV”.
And that just about sums it up.
The fuel shortage has shown how fragile the current fuel distribution model is. We can’t afford to spend hours queuing up at petrol stations or being unable to plan ahead because we don’t know if we can get the fuel we need.
So…the future is now. The tipping point is past. Expect to see the sales of EVs start to sky-rocket, not because of a newly found environmental conscience on the part of the general public but because of the sheer necessity of having personal transportation that we can rely on.
2024 just arrived three years early.
Written by Andy Lloyd - 03.10.21
Creative, Media & Logistics Executive @ EVHIRE