The UK’s Vehicle Fleet Shows Us Why We Need Small Affordable EVs ASAP!

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There were 40.7 million vehicles on the roads in the United Kingdom as of the end of December 2022.  There were 35,148,045 cars, 4,887,593 vans, 72,766 buses, and 615,570 trucks. One in every 32 cars now comes with a plug in the United Kingdom, with 1.1 million electric cars now in use, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 3.1% of the fleet of UK’s car fleet is now either full battery-electric or plug-in hybrid. The SMMT says that 1.2% are plug-in hybrid and 1.9% are full battery-electric.

The most popular car segments in the UK remain super-minis and small family (lower medium) models, which account for nearly 6 in 10 cars in service, at 11,620,116 and 9,214,039 units respectively. Examples of some of the popular cars in the UK are the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, the Ford Focus, and the VW Golf.  We need more battery-electric options in these super-mini and small family model vehicle segments to cater to this market.

As discussed in a recent article, we are starting to see more EV options across the various car segments, and we will soon have electric cars in every segment. However, as of today, these BEVs may not necessarily be available in all the major markets around the world, but just in a select few markets. However, having some electric vehicles across all segments was always going to be an important step along the transition, and then growing their availability from there. Having them available in more markets around the world after the OEMs have built capacity to ramp up production to satisfy both the local and export market was going to be the next step. As OEMs ramp up production now, and as supply chain constraints are now starting to loosen up, these EVs will become more widely available in more countries in the near future.

But when do we get to that next step? A look at the comments section from that article highlights some very important points and why we need to reach that next step as soon as practically possible.

Here are some comments from our readers:

Bviktor says: “Every segment except the affordable one. No, a $40k car is not affordable, $10k is.”

Michael says: “As the proud owner of a Mazda 5 who *likes* having a vehicle that’s easy to load/unload and doesn’t cost 100K (or need an AI to figure out how to open the door) I find it odd that “every segment” doesn’t include MPVs/Minivans.”

Lebero says: “Article is American oriented, however dominant market is China and Shanghai Auto show is proving it. New progressive technologies are promoted in Asia and huge 4 billion people internal market causes development of these technologies. In my opinion promotion of big totally energetically not effective cars like giants for millionaires and SUVs, huge pickups is counterproductive. Battery from such giant car will be enough for almost 20 Wulings. Total waste of energy which should be conserved.”

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The comments above and the distribution of vehicles across the UK’s fleet that shows a weighing towards the smaller vehicles and more affordable family vehicles highlight the urgent need for more EVs in these segments. For this article, and especially due to the dominance of the smaller vehicles in the UK’s fleet, we will focus on these smaller vehicles. The super-minis and small family (lower medium) models make up more than 20.8 million of the 35 million cars in the UK. That’s a whopping 59%!

This one of the reasons why I pay close attention to developments in places like India, and especially China. Although India is still far behind in terms of production volumes, as well as the number of models available, there are some exciting affordable small EVs coming up in India, with TATA leading the way. The $10,000 TATA Tiago has been a big hit in India. This is a vehicle that is in a segment that people are crying for. Although TATA would first need to satisfy local demand for this type of vehicle, there is a big opportunity to meet the growing demand for these types of affordable EVs in markets like the UK which love small cars. As Bviktor said, at $10,000, this is a more affordable vehicle, not the $40,000 and above larger crossovers that have more BEV options in a lot of markets at the moment.

China is much further along on the transition, and perhaps presents the best chance for us to get affordable small cars in more markets around the world sooner rather than later. Examples of exciting small EVs from china include the BYD Seagull (to be released in China soon), the Leap Motor T03 (which is already exported to Israel), and the all new Wuling Bingo, among others. These are all models that if introduced to countries like the UK would really make a big difference in the vehicle segments that are the most popular with consumers.

BYD is bringing the larger 60 kWh BYD Dolphin to the UK and Europe to join the very successful MG4 from SAIC Motor. The MG4 is one of the game-changing EVs that landed in the UK at prices that are close to those of popular ICE vehicles in the hatchback segment. The all-electric MG 4 is in the same price range as some entry level VW Golf models. This is a very significant development of the EV sector and its mission to catalyze the adoption of electric vehicles.

Very soon, consumers in the UK will have the MG4 and the 60 kWh BYD Dolphin in the small hatchback market, where the ICE VW Golf and the Ford Focus are the current favorites. Perhaps BYD needs to also bring the 30 kWh or 45 kWh BYD Dolphin, which are smaller than the 60kWh one that it is starting with, in order to give consumers a decent EV in a category that is close to favorites such as the VW Polo and the Ford Fiesta. The 30 kWh Dolphin would perhaps also be priced much cheaper than the rumored £26,538 (€30,000) larger 60 kWh version. This market would also really need an accelerated introduction of something like an ID.2 and ID.1 from VW, for example, which would be smaller and more affordable than an ID.3.

The EV market has come a long way from the days when there were just $80,000 and above large electric SUV and sedans, and some smaller vehicles like the first gen Nissan Leaf, but now we need the smaller and much more affordable £17,691 (€20,000) and below type of EVs in the smaller car segments.

Image from SMMT

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 761 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai