Majority of EU consumers consider electric cars too expensive, refiners say

More than 60% of European consumers think that the cost of purchasing an electric car is too high, according to a new survey commissioned by oil refinery industry group FuelsEurope.

The research identifies price as the top barrier (61%) for the development of the electric vehicle (EV) market. The distance that can be travelled with an electric car and the lack of charging stations are other major obstacles (48% and 44% respectively), according to the research.

The survey involved 10,000 people in 10 countries (Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom), finding that cars remain the most popular means of transport for going to work (57%).

The study shows that the most important factor considered when buying a new car is price (73%) followed by energy consumption (37%) and comfort (28%). Only 18% of respondents said they take CO2 emissions into account.

In terms of car types, 38% would buy a petrol or diesel car while 24% are interested in EVs (plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles).

A majority (68%) also said that the government should do more to support the deployment of electric cars and “of multiple low-carbon alternatives to petrol” (73%).

Overall, more than half of participants believe that the transport system will fundamentally change in the next decade. Some 37% consider EVs as the only solution to lower emissions in the transport sector, while 69% agree that alternative fuels (biofuels, hydrogen, natural gas) could be an “affordable and efficient solution”.

“This survey shows a clear appetite for affordable, green mobility technologies that do not require an overhaul of the EU’s vehicle fleet,” said John Cooper, director general of FuelsEurope. “A majority of respondents still believe that the internal combustion engine, powered by low-carbon fuels, has an important role to play in achieving low-carbon mobility.”

However, Laura Buffet, energy director at green group Transport & Environment (T&E), questioned whether the survey respondents knew about the full environmental impact of alternative fuels such as biofuels.

EU demand for palm oil used for biodiesel, heating and electricity continued to grow in 2018, with overall imports of biodiesel tripling that year to reach 3.3Mt. Earlier this year, the European Commission capped the use of palm oil-based biofuels at 2019 levels in preparation for phasing them out by 2030.

“Electric cars are already a cheaper alternative to fossil fuel vehicles when all the costs of running them, such as fuel, maintenance and insurance, are considered,” Buffet said.

She added: “With the EU car CO2 standards kicking in next year, we will finally see a wave of affordable models coming to market and benefiting EU drivers. What we need is taxation reform that helps consumers buy an electric car while penalising gas-guzzling, high-emitting SUVs.”

Follow up: FuelsEurope consumer survey.

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