Auto industry analysts are predicting that sales of electric vehicles will suffer badly due to the pandemic. But it’s not the first time that legacy industry sources have written off EVs. However, a new UK survey suggests that the coronavirus is making consumers more aware of the environment — and therefore more inclined to buy an electric car.
enso Automotive Solutions, a fleet management company, conducted a study of 200 UK consumers this month. Alison Bell, marketing director at Venson, told Electrek via email about its approach:
The question we asked was, ‘Have the effects of the current COVID-19 lockdown made you change your mind about buying an electric vehicle?’
The firm found that 45% of respondents were considering buying an EV after seeing how clear the air can be. An additional 17% had already decided to buy an electric car and are even now more certain about their decision. That makes 62% of UK consumers in that UK survey ready to go electric.
Bell told us how the survey questions were framed:
We set the terms of reference for the questions by saying, ‘Transport makes up 23% of the world’s global carbon emissions, and where people are no longer allowed to travel unless their trip is vital, air quality has surprisingly improved. Even the infamous canals of Venice now boast crystal clear waters.’ We did not ask specific questions around the pandemic.
Of the 45% of motorists now considering an EV, 19% said their very next purchase will be all-electric. The rest of them said that they intend to become an EV driver in the next five years.
That represents a speeding up of EV intent in the time of the pandemic. In July 2019, a third of respondents who showed interest said they would wait for another 10 to 15 years.
Bell believes that interest in EVs also jumped due to improvements in the UK’s EV charging infrastructure, consumer tax incentives, and a greater selection of models.
However, it now appears that seeing clearer skies — and recognizing that not preparing for a global crisis can have devastating results — is also changing consumer sentiment.
Nonetheless, global sales of electric vehicles are projected to drop by 43% this year, according to new analysis by consultancy Wood Mackenzie. Bloomberg reports that EV sales in China will face their third year of decline, partly due to the pandemic.
However, these forecasts run counter to some February sales numbers that show an overall auto slump, but also a shift in the share of sales from electric vehicles.
The Venson study is the first that we’ve seen about EV purchase consideration since the pandemic. More research is required.
For years, the auto industry has argued that EVs have been a push technology — rather than one demanded by consumers. For multiple reasons, the tide is turning.
The pandemic will cause the world to reconsider many facets of how we live. Despite the adverse short-term impacts on EV-related auto sales and supply chains, we could be seeing consumers conduct the first wholesale societal reconsideration of the cars we drive.