Alert ! Electric car sales drop 58% in UK image

Electric car sales have more than halved this year. Figures obtained by CleanGreenCars reveal just 156 were sold from January to October 2008, compared to 374 for the same period in 2007.

News of the 58% drop comes as one of London’s two electric car distributors, Nice Car Company, was plunged into administration. Set up in 2006, the company had been selling an all-electric version of the French-made Aixam Mega.

It had also planned to bring a range of new models, including a two-seater and MPV, to market by the end of the year. However, sales dropped to fewer than one car a week.

“While volumes are still tiny, any drop in electric car sales will come as a shock to most people,” commented Richard Bremner, editor “Perhaps the market for quirky electric vehicles like the Mega City and G-Wiz have had their day. Buyers could be holding off for cars from mainstream manufacturers, although they may still have years to wait before mass production is a reality.”

There are around 1,100 all-electric cars currently on UK roads. The vast majority are owned by Londoners and are quadricycles rather than fully type-approved cars. Congestion-charge concessions for all-electric vehicles helped create the market, however customers have since turned away.

So what hit sales?

CO2-based congestion charge proposals
Ken Livingstone’s proposals to exempt sub-120 g/km CO2 petrol and diesel cars from the congestion charge damaged the market. The proposals were subsequently scrapped by new mayor Boris Johnson, but many had turned away from all-electric motoring in the interim.

Electric quadricycles and safety
Quadricycles are not required to undergo the rigorous crash tests of standard cars like a Corsa or Fiesta. Their safety record has therefore been questioned with programmes like BBC Top Gear highlighting poor performance in an impact.

City of London’s U-turn on parking concessions
Electric cars were exempt from parking charges in the City of London, until a U-turn announced in June this year. The concession was thought to be worth up to £4,000 a year for those regularly parking in the City.

Models by mainstream car makers
Many early-adopters have become wary of dipping their toes in the market with independent companies like Reva and NICE, particularly since mainstream car makers announced their plans to bring electric cars to market.