On 20 September, the British Prime Minister announced a delay on several of the UK’s Net Zero policies. Rishi Sunak’s recent U-turn on previously promised green policies notably includes a watering down of the ban on all petrol and diesel car sales by 2030. Instead, in line with the UK’s wider goal of reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050, this 2030 ban on fossil fuel-powered vehicles has been pushed back to 2035.

Sunak claimed in the announcement that this delay would save consumers money and would not impact the adoption rate of electric vehicles (EVs), saying that Britain could afford to make slower progress as it was “so far ahead of every other country in the world”.

However, many voices in the automotive industry have voiced their doubts over the delay. Several OEMs and automotive companies have condemned the delay in the ban, noting the impact it could have on EV sales and attitudes.

For example, Everrati CEO Justin Lunny commented:

“By rowing back, the UK Government has not only pushed our Net Zero plan a further five years down the road, but risked fostering procrastination in a burgeoning market.”

There has been a theory circling within the UK automotive industry that the delay of the 2030 ban could pose a major setback for motorists’ willingness to make the electric switch.

With the combination of an extended Ultra Low Emission Zone and impending ban on combustion engine sales, many UK drivers were being strongly encouraged to make the switch.  With the introduction of this delay, however, those same drivers now have little motivation to purchase an EV as their next vehicle.

Nathalie Thomas, LEX writer from the Financial Times, claimed to a part of this demographic, saying:

“I have been planning to buy an electric vehicle for several years…Just when it looked as if I could put off a purchase no longer, Rishi Sunak has come to my rescue”. 

Clearly, Sunak’s delay may have encouraged already-hesitant drivers to put off EV purchasing for even longer.

So, the question remains, is the U-turn going to slow down the willingness of UK drivers to buy EVs? At face value, it seems like the answer should be “yes”, but some of the stats say otherwise.

MG Motors today announced that their electric car sales in the UK have reached $1 billion, putting the company in a “very strong position to take advantage” of the shift to electric, as reported by the BBC.

So, if there’s a lack of urgency to buy an EV from the ban’s delay, how come EV sales in the UK are still climbing?

Nick Woolley, CEO of ev.energy, has argued that “‘people’s consent’ is not the issue” as reports have revealed that 54% of the UK public want to switch to an electric car before the 2030 ban.

Woolley added to his argument that the procrastination trend may not be one of laziness, but one of wealth.

“We need the Government to keep firm on their commitments, and get behind accelerating the transition, everywhere…Focus on providing fair access to those worse off so that EVs don’t just benefit the rich. Let’s make sure everyone can connect to the grid together, not just those who are ready first,” said Woolley.

As of 2023, the average cost of a brand-new EV is around £50,000, whilst a brand-new combustion engine car estimates around £26,000, according to reports by Splend and Nimble Fins. In the current climate of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, it is likely that the latter price would be more attractive.

Therefore, it makes sense to assume that the willingness to buy an EV is less of an issue in the rate of adoption, but the cost to buy very well could be.

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