Fuel crisis is driving car buyers toward EVs, say retailers

Online marketplaces see huge surge in interest in battery-powered vehicles as drivers struggle to find fuel

The current fuel crisis has led to a sharp rise in buyers considering electric cars, according to retailers.

Online marketplaces Auto Trader and Carwow reported a significant rise in EV advert views and inquiries over the weekend as filling stations struggled to cope with customer numbers amid fears over fuel supplies.

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Auto Trader said searches for used EVs were up by more than 60 per cent between Friday 24 September and Sunday 26, compared with the previous weekend, with a 28 per cent rise in advert views for new EVs.

It also reported a sharp rise in the number of enquiries made to dealers about EVs.

Carwow reported progressively more searches over the weekend, with a 28 per cent increase on Friday jumping to a 56 per cent rise on Sunday compared with the previous week.

EV sales have been strong so far in 2021, despite a poor overall performance for the new car market. However, they still account for just 11% of new car sales each month.

Auto Trader’s commercial director Ian Plummer revealed that four of the five top performing new cars last weekend were EVs, including the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Ford Mustang Mach-E and said the data showed a growing shift towards new and used EVs.

He commented: “We are all familiar with the idea of range anxiety, but the events of the past few days mean we are entering the age of fuel anxiety.

“We have seen a massive surge in consumer engagement for electric cars over the weekend. Not only did the number of advert views for new and used electric models increase a record 28% and 61% respectively versus the previous weekend, but we also saw a huge uplift in the number of people sending enquiries to retailers, with one sent every two minutes. This suggests that people aren’t simply flirting with the idea of electric but have been encouraged to actively pursue a purchase.”

Sepi Arani, director of trade at carwow, said the crisis could mark a major change in buyer attitude towards EVs.

He commented: “The fuel supply crisis and the scenes of panic at the pumps could prove to be the most influential switching event ever, with more people than ever considering switching to electric.

“After a weekend of queuing, frustration and hysteria, having the option to charge your vehicle from the comfort of your own home, or from a public charging point, seems like bliss for more and more people.”

However, Mr Plummer warned that without better incentives and better infrastructure, EV interest might not translate into sales.

He said: “Despite this boost in activity, it’s unlikely to represent a major step towards the Government’s Road to Zero ambitions. That’s because electric cars are prohibitively expensive for the majority of people, and despite the significant increase in range performance, concerns of an inadequate charging infrastructure remain.

“To make them a genuinely viable option for mainstream buyers, we need more commitment to provide greater incentives to deal with the upfront cost, as well as more investment to improve the national infrastructure to support both those rare long journeys, and those without access to home charging.”