Electric vehicle sales UK on the rise

The BMW i3 electric car, due to launch in 2013

Britain’s electric highway has seen a staggering increase in use, with electricity consumption increasing 4,500 per cent between February and April 2013, compared to the same period, last year, as Greencar co.uk reports.
Are the Brits picking up on electric driving? You’d almost expect it from a country that has such a long history in the motoring industry. The United Kingdom definitely has its own spot in the automotive world with premium brands such Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lotus. With factories of volume brands such as Honda, Nissan, Toyota and GM. The country also has a significant presence in motorsports, being the home ground of many formula 1 racing teams: Mclaren, Red Bull Racing, Williams F1 and Lotus to mention a few.
Although it can be said that this country is no stranger to innovation in automotive, the adoption of electric cars for everyday use is so far quite low in the UK. The graph below shows which percentage of the European EVs is domiciled in which country. In absolute numbers France and Norway lead the pack.

Electric vehicles in Europe 2013

Graph courtesy of AVERE France

Electric vehicles per 100000 inhabitants Europe 2013

Graph courtesy of Eurostat

When you take the size of the population into account, Norway is the most EV-minded country. The graph below shows the number of electric vehicles per 100.000 inhabitants in the various European countries. The blue bars show the number of passenger cars, the burgundy the number of commercial electric vehicles. It confirms the position of Norway and shows that the UK is still a modest player compared to some other countries.

Electricity for the cars in Norway is generated by hydropower. The countries ability to generate clean electricity and step away from fossil fuels explains the policy by the government to give preferential treatment to EVs. All electric cars in Norway are tax exampt, including purchase tax and 25% VAT. This makes the purchase price of an electric car competitive with conventional cars. The popularity of electric cars in France can also be explained by tax advantages.
So, can the uptake of electric charging along highways in the UK be explained by clever calculating consumers, that autonomously choose for electric driving based on cost per kilometer or the wish to drive CO2 neutral and be an environmentally conscious person?
The answer is no. It is tax driven. The governmental budget for 2013 included major changes to the tax on company cars from 2015. Cars that emit less than 75 g/km of CO2 will cease to be free from company car tax from April 2015. Two new company car tax bands being introduced at 0-50 gCO2/km and 51-75 g/km CO2 (with BIK rates starting at 5% and 9% respectively). The tax rates will increase by 2% by 2017).
The uptake in highway charging is likely to be a precursor of the UK climbing the ranks of European EV sales, due to this new tax policy. In no country the lawmakers can sit back and relax when it comes to encouraging Evs with legislation. The landscape of European EV sales presented here, will change. That is for certain.

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