Second-hand electric cars could be the key to unlocking net zero and transitioning to cleaner fuel, but customers’ concerns about buying cars with used batteries seem to be the biggest barrier in place, according to the latest study.
An industry report by Green Finance Institute (GFI) found that EV transition could be fast-tracked by more than a decade, encouraging over 17 million people to switch to electric, if steps are taken to improve consumer confidence in the second-hand EV market.
The government-backed organisation working towards a low-carbon future identified battery health, affordability, charging infrastructure, and access to reliable information identified as the top barriers to the second-hand EV market, but the former was the single most effective solution to encourage drivers to make the switch.
The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 by the UK government in a move to reduce road transport emissions. However, the used car market, which is not impacted by the ban, is by far the most dominant across the country and is forecasted to be worth £182 billion by 2027.
The GFI suggested that it is vital to encourage and enable second-hand car buyers to opt for affordable EVs to fast-track road transport decarbonisation, hit climate targets, and ensure a just transition, enabling the mass adoption of EVs.
Lauren Pamma, Programme Director at the Green Finance Institute, said: “Without the used market, the EV transition is destined to stall. 82 per cent of car sales in 2021 were second-hand in the UK. So, if we’re serious about driving EV adoption en masse, we need to channel this appetite for second-hand cars towards EVs.
“Our research makes clear that the demand for EVs is already there, but to unlock the used market, we need to boost consumer confidence in battery health, charging infrastructure, and affordability. In collaboration with the public and private sectors, the Green Finance Institute is already working to implement solutions that tackle these barriers.”
The report surveyed over 2,000 UK drivers and drew on contributions from 35 leading car dealerships, motor finance lenders, and lease companies. GFI concluded that, despite over 61% of drivers indicating they would purchase an EV, over a quarter of them would not buy a used EV unless concerns around batteries, cost, and charging infrastructure were addressed.
Of drivers who said they wouldn’t buy a used EV, 62 per cent cited concerns around battery lifespan — making the fear of poor battery health the single largest barrier preventing the second-hand market from taking off, a concern echoed by industry experts. Nearly three-quarters of the 21 dealerships involved in the report recognised battery lifespan as one of the top consumer concerns in the context of used EVs.
The research also identified a clear disconnect between drivers’ perceptions of EV running costs and the reality. Of those who currently wouldn’t buy a used EV, 27 per cent cited cost and the cost of maintenance as a major factor.
However, research has shown that the overall running costs of an EV over its lifetime of ownership are typically less than that of ICE counterparts. Recent falls in used EV values reported by AutoTrader also mean there are some used EVs which are cheaper to buy than their ICE equivalent – the Renault Zoe being an example.
Despite the growing number of public charge points – which have increased by 523 per cent in the last six years alone – drivers surveyed also said a better understanding of the cost and locations of public charging would encourage them to make the switch to an EV.
Marc Palmer, Brand & Insights Director at Auto Trader, said: “The vast majority of drivers buy a second-hand vehicle, so the used market is fundamental to the EV transition – it’s where mainstream electrification becomes affordable and opens up sustainable motoring to the millions we need to make the switch in order to meet our targets.
“But the themes and barriers highlighted in the Green Finance Institute’s report echo what we’re seeing – battery and charging confidence are vital to mainstream adoption, so support for the used EV market is critical.”
The GFI also suggested a few solutions which could be utilised to mitigate the barriers. Standardised battery health certificates for used vehicles a mechanism for EV batteries to have a guaranteed end-of-life value were most commonly identified by drivers as solutions that would encourage them to make the switch to electric.
Battery passports, which give second-hand buyers accurate knowledge of their prospective battery’s life to date, would also help allay concerns over batteries. Addressing information gaps, particularly surrounding topics such as the cost and location of public charge points and energy tariffs to keep at-home charging costs low, will be central to giving drivers the confidence to switch to an EV.
For all of the barriers identified throughout the report, the research showed that dealerships have the greatest potential to address gaps in consumer education. Outside of personal research and family & friends, dealerships are the most trusted source of information on EVs.
However, dealerships are also in need of more information on EVs. Just two out of the 21 dealerships involved in the research felt they had enough data on battery degradation, with the remaining in need of more information.