An electric car revolution – but only for the well off?  
January 30th, 2023, Stephan Shakespeare

An electric car revolution – but only for the well off?  

YouGov data shows that, by 60% to 24%, British drivers are agreed that electric cars are the future of the motor industry. Of course, “future” may be the operative word: Kia’s UK chief Paul Philpott recently suggested that affordable small electric cars were “not viable” due to the high cost of batteries, and that the company didn’t intend to bring mass market EVs to the nation’s showrooms just yet.

Looking at YouGov Profiles data on current electric car ownership shows that these vehicles are more likely to be owned by drivers with greater means. A third of drivers who own electric cars are in a higher income bracket (33%) compared to a fifth of British drivers on the whole (18%). Two-fifths (42%) bring in over £50,000 per year in gross household income – compared to just three in ten (29%) Britons with a driving licence.

If Philpott is pessimistic about affordability, however, the most cited reason for buying a battery-powered vehicle among electric car owners is lower running costs: two in five (38%) say this is a key purchase motivation. For comparison, just three in ten (28%) cite protecting the environment as a reason to buy.

So if the upfront price of an electric car is a hurdle – and it’s the most commonly mentioned barrier to purchase among current drivers of electric cars (14%) and British drivers overall (10%) – those who can afford to make the jump may pay less in the long run.

Nevertheless, our data shows that nearly three in five drivers overall (57%) and half of electric car owners (51%) believe it “costs too much” to be green all the time. If prices cannot be reduced in the short term, emphasising the financial benefits of owning an electric car – after the initial outlay – may do more to incentivise drivers to “go electric” in a cost-of-living crisis than environmental arguments.