High insurance is key barrier to electric cars

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Higher insurance premiums is the biggest factor stopping drivers from making the switch from diesel to electric and hybrid cars, according to new research.

A survey carried out for the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) shows two in five Britons have grave concerns about air pollution and see ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEV) as a solution.

However, the findings reveal most are unwilling or unable to pay the increased insurance premiums currently levied on these cars. As a result they would not consider buying or leasing a ULEV any time soon.

Insurers charge up to 50 per cent more to cover electric and hybrid cars because of their bigger price tag and a current lack of skilled technicians able to maintain them.

Only one in 100 mechanics in the UK is qualified to carry out work on the high-voltage systems of ULEVs, and these specialists are almost exclusively employed within franchised dealerships.

Only 17 per cent of respondents said high insurance was a price worth paying for the environmental benefits.

The youngest drivers were most willing to accept higher charges for cleaner air, with one in five of those aged 18 to 24 willing to shell out extra on insurance compared to just one in ten of over-55s.

There were also regional variations. More than a fifth of residents in Edinburgh, London and Cardiff believe additional costs are worth paying, whereas only half as many in Leeds and Newcastle agreed.

Respondents were also concerned over a lack of charging points for green machines.

IMI chief executive Steve Nash said: “It’s not rocket science. Small businesses are uncertain about future demand for work on electrified cars and won’t risk investing in the skills they need without help from the government.

“This means insurance and servicing costs will stay out of the reach of many drivers and car buyers will still be attracted to diesel cars as the most fuel-efficient alternative, keeping them on our roads in significant numbers for decades to come.”