Government’s EV plans could see British motorists miss out on £9bn of savings

Limited availability of small and mid-sized EVs on the second-hand market could see drivers miss out on cheaper running costs in coming years.

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By George Smeeton

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A slower roll-out of new electric cars would have the knock-on impact of reducing the size of the second-hand EV market, leaving less affluent drivers paying billions of pounds more to run petrol rather than electric vehicles.

New analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) of the more affordable small and mid-sized car categories finds that 2.1 million fewer of these EVs could flow on to the second-hand market. This would result in drivers paying an extra £9bn to run petrol cars instead of EVs.

The government’s proposed ‘Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate’ policy will require manufacturers to ensure an increasing proportion of the cars they sell in the coming years are electric. But the trajectory laid out is below the car industry’s ‘high’ scenario for EV sales – a difference that would add billions to driving costs.

The majority of households buy their cars from the second-hand market, and small to medium-sized vehicles account for the majority of the market. Analysis by ECIU has found that small to mid-sized EVs on the second-hand market can save their owners between £500 and £800 a year in running costs when compared to their petrol equivalents.

Commenting on the analysis, Colin Walker, transport analyst at ECIU, said: “Even with record high electricity costs driven up by the gas crisis, EVs are still around three times cheaper to run than their petrol equivalents. But with 82% of car sales in the UK being second-hand, this market is critical if many more families across the UK are going to be able to access these savings.

“If Government policy on new EVs goes slow, the growth of the second-hand EV market will be held back potentially consigning families to more expensive motoring”.

With demand for EVs exceeding supply, the UK and EU could find themselves competing for those EVs that manufacturers are able to produce. If the UK sets higher targets for its ZEV mandate than those being drawn up in the EU, it could see manufacturers choosing to sell more of their EV stock in the UK, enabling more British motorists to switch away from the higher driving costs associated with petrol cars.

The analysis looked at the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe as the best-selling small and mid-sized EVs, comparing them with their petrol equivalents.

The introduction of robust ZEV mandates can also impact on health. California is one of a number of US states that already has a ZEV mandate in place to drive EV uptake. Researchers at the University of Southern California have found that as EV uptake has increased in California, Nitrogen Dioxide levels have fallen – resulting in a fall in the number of asthma-related hospital admissions. For every 2% increase in the proportion of EVs on California’s roads, hospital admissions fell by more than 3% [2].

Notes to editors:

1. The report, The UK’s second-hand electric vehicle market, is available here:

ECIU’s analysis has found that should the Government stick with its proposed ZEV mandate targets rather than adopt the car industry’s ‘high’ EV sales projections, there will be more than 2.1 million fewer small and mid-sized electric vehicles available on the secondhand market by 2033. This would result in UK’s drivers missing out on £9 billion in savings over the lifetimes of the cars.


For more information:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: