British motorists are not adopting electric cars quickly enough to allow the government to meet its targets, according to new analysis. Research by online car marketplace Auto Trader suggests electric cars need to make up more than 10 percent of new car registrations this year to be on target for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars.

However, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show electric vehicles (EVs) make up a mere 8.4 percent of new car sales so far this year. To be on track to meet the government timetable, that proportion would need to be roughly 30 percent higher, at 11 percent of the total.

According to Auto Trader’s analysis, electric cars will need to make up 54 percent of all sales in 2026. That means they’ll need to be around seven times more popular than they are now in just five years’ time.

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By 2030, the government wants to end the sale of conventional petrol- and diesel-powered cars, with electric and hybrid vehicles taking over. Under current proposals, hybrids will be phased out by 2035, leaving only battery-electric and hydrogen-powered new cars on sale in the UK.

Encouragingly for the government, Auto Trader’s own figures suggest interest in electric cars is growing, with the zero-emission vehicles making up one in seven (14.3 percent) new car advert views, up from just 3.8 percent in August 2020. And the company’s research suggests nearly one in five customers (17.7 percent) are considering an electric car. That’s up from 11.8 percent in May and 8.8 percent in January.

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Despite this high level of interest, however, Auto Trader says three in four buyers “look at EVs with low intent”. In fact, the company’s data shows the proportion of customers searching for a car that actively engage with a seller is around half the level seen with petrol or diesel vehicles.

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s commercial director, said the market is not “where it needs to be” ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel sales, and he suggested the government needed to incentivise electric vehicles more heavily.

“There’s no question that the market for electric cars is in the best shape it’s ever been in,” he said. “We’re seeing more choice, and significantly more advertising and marketing spend from manufacturers promoting electric models, and as a result, we’re seeing more sales too.

“However, in the context of 2030, the market isn’t where it needs to be, and we’re going to need a greater commitment from the government and all of us within the industry to inject much needed pace into its Road to Zero race. Key to this will be a focus on the three I’s: more incentives, more investment, and more information, all of which we believe will be critical to make both new and used electric vehicles a genuinely viable option for mainstream buyers.”

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