Electric car ownership for the masses is within reach as prices fall and finance opens - Dr Richard Dixon

Prices are coming down and finance for electric vehicles is growing, writes Dr Richard Dixon

Despite the UK and Scottish Governments going backwards on their top-level commitments to phasing out the sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans, things are actually going pretty well for electric vehicles.

A new analysis shows that someone who bought a new, top-selling electric car in 2023 is likely to save around £1,300 a year compared to running the equivalent petrol car.

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Although electric cars are currently more expensive than their fossil-fuelled equivalents, it is widely expected that falling EV prices will reach parity with equivalent conventional models in a year or two. This will be in part driven by the mass introduction of cheap Chinese EVs to the European and UK markets this year, with brands like BYD, GWM and XPeng likely to become commonplace, and a price war developing between all the manufacturers. You may not realise it but the current crop of electric MGs are already Chinese EVs.

Scotland is well placed in the journey towards mass electric car ownership, writes Dr Richard Dixon. PIC:  John Walton/PA WireScotland is well placed in the journey towards mass electric car ownership, writes Dr Richard Dixon. PIC:  John Walton/PA Wire
Scotland is well placed in the journey towards mass electric car ownership, writes Dr Richard Dixon. PIC: John Walton/PA Wire
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While many in the industry have been worried by the mixed messages coming from the UK Government, with the date to phase out sales of petrol and diesel cars moving back from 2030 to 2035, other measures are driving up sales of electric vehicles and feeding the growing second-hand market.

Crucially, from 2024 the Zero Emission Vehicles Mandate will mean that the motor industry as a whole will have to sell enough electric vehicles to make up at least 22% of their total sales.

Leasing and rental companies are becoming more and more interested in EVs, with Octopus Energy’s EV car leasing arm planning to double the size of its EV fleet to 30,000. This makes EVs an even more common sight on our roads and makes a big input to the second-hand market.

Scotland already has the best charging network per head of population in the UK, much of it free. Five of the six densest hotspots for free charging were in Scotland in 2023. Dundee embraced electric vehicles early and has more EVs in its council fleet than other UK local authority and one of the biggest electric taxi fleets in the UK, and the city has developed solar-powered EV charging hubs.

Additionally, in Scotland, there has been a loan scheme to help people and businesses buy a second-hand electric vehicle or new electric taxis, and a grant to help people install charging systems at home. Because EVs have been getting cheaper these schemes are now on hold.

There are plans for a big expansion of the charging network across the UK but critics suggest the need to move even more quickly than planned. The next big advance will come when on-street charging becomes available so that people living in flats and tenements can park an EV near home and charge it.

Just switching every vehicle to electric power does nothing to reduce congestion or accidents. A car-based society is one of divided communities and built-in inequality. But switching to electric goes a long way to reducing climate emissions and some way to improving local air quality. So electric vehicles are not the silver bullet to fix all of our transport problems but they are a very important part of the solution.

Dr Richard Dixon is an environmental campaigner and consultant

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