The affordability of used electric cars

12 November 2019

12 November 2019

Jonathan Brown, Car Editor, Glass’s

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution has yet to get into its stride in the UK, largely due to affordability. The inevitable change will begin when used-car buyers see electric cars as affordable alternatives to internal combustion power. Today, the optimal price for used-car consumers appears to be around £5,995 (€6,960) but for many, the affordability level is much lower.

As of November 2019, there are approximately 1,500 used EVs advertised for sale in the UK. Most are genuine used vehicles with only a few ′delivery’ mileage 19’plate vehicles. Advertised prices range from £1,200 (€1,400) for a G-Wiz, with just 22,000 miles, all the way up to £98,000 (€114,000) for a 2017 Tesla model X with only 500 miles on the clock.

Affordability is only one facet to create a desire for individuals to own EVs. The other major influencers to ownership are range anxiety and the UK charging infrastructure. The basic affordability question pushes to the core of the desire to change. Thus far, the desire has not transpired in the market to trigger a significant change in demand. Further dampening demand is the battery-lease cost applied to many early models, which wipes out any cost savings from the ownership equation.

Whilst the pool of used EVs is growing, in terms of affordability there are still only two volume models to choose from; the Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf. Starting prices are around £4,700 (€5,460) for a Nissan Leaf, although buyers should ensure ownership of the battery to avoid a potential £80 (€93) a month battery lease.

With vehicle excise duty (VED) rated at zero pounds, free access to London and other low/zero-emission zones, and charging at home adding only a small amount to the cost of ownership, used buyers are being tempted, albeit slowly, into the EV market.

Although an expensive gesture, some users are switching to enjoy the knowledge that they arereducing tailpipe emissions in their neighbourhood and making a significant CO2 reduction overall compared to equivalent petrol and diesel models over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Used values

Affecting values of used EVs is the continual development of technology in the segment. Following the launch of the second-generation Nissan Leaf, there is a notable increase in used examples of the first-generation model appearing at auction and on used-car portals as early EV adopters switch to the new model for increased range and power. At auction, the average numbers of EVs nearly doubled in the months from May to September this year compared to the same period in 2018.

From just under £5,000 (€5,800), a level of affordability is evident but the choice is limited in terms of both make and model. For many potential EV users, the price of the technology is still high but higher-mileage users do have a better opportunity to make cost savings from switching to electric power – especially if their journeys are under 100 miles. Over this distance, concerns switch to range anxiety and charge-point availability.

Meanwhile, in both the new and used car markets, petrol and diesel still account for the lion’s share of sales and this is likely to continue for some time to come.