The shift to EVs: balancing cost and convenience for a seamless transition

20 February 2024

The UK reached a new milestone in January, selling its millionth electric car. The number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road continues to rise – up 21 per cent from January 2023.

Interestingly this growth is largely down to the fleet market, demand from private buyers has declined (as it has for petrol and diesel vehicles) according to recent registration data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Among private buyers EV sales were down 25 per cent and petrol and diesel down 15 per cent.

Is consumer confidence in EVs waning or are there other factors at play? What can we learn from current EV users about their experience to give others the confidence to switch?

We know from our research that cost and convenience determine how we travel. So, for users to make the switch, owning an EV needs to be as affordable and convenient as a petrol or diesel vehicle.

There are savings to be made when it comes to running an EV, but the upfront cost continues to be a significant barrier, particularly with the increasing cost of living. However, the price gap between EVs and petrol/diesel vehicles is narrowing, and the recent growth in the used EV market will also help when it comes to affordability. But there is still some way to go to help drivers over this initial hurdle.

So, what is it like once you’ve got an EV? Users tell us they love their EVs and the experience of driving them, but the main concerns tend to relate to charging.

Most currently charge at home, which can be a huge bonus. It’s cheaper than filling up with petrol or diesel and can save drivers around £700 per year, according to analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. It’s also convenient – you’ve essentially got your own ‘refuelling station’ without the fumes or expensive snacks. But what about those who can’t charge at home, for instance the third of households who have no off-street parking?

In our new EV charging survey, only around a third of users we spoke to were satisfied with the value for money of their charge. RAC Charge Watch data shows that from the end of 2022, it has been more expensive to run an EV using rapid or ultra-rapid charge points when compared to their fossil fuel counterparts.

We know value for money isn’t only about the cost, but what you get in return for it. When considering the higher costs associated with public chargepoints, users rightfully expect an experience to match. So, what do users want? A key concern for drivers is the availability and reliability of charge points. Some users in our survey were thankful to have secured a spot but pointed to the number of drivers who turned away when they saw a queue. Others shared frustration with the power being lower than advertised.

The number of public charge points is increasing, and it’s encouraging to see the recent measures announced to help accelerate this – but we still have a long way to go.

Accessibility is another important issue and we are particularly interested in what it’s like for disabled users trying to charge. We’ll have more to say on this later.

We will use our insight to build a picture of what it’s really like for EV drivers trying to charge. Our findings will be shared with chargepoint operators, National Highways, and others – to highlight good practice and show what isn’t working.

You don’t often worry about finding a petrol station to fill your car, or the practicalities when you get there, how long before it will be the same for electric vehicles?

Like the blog? Please share on your social channels.