The changing and varied restrictions across the UK has required the country to remain agile when it comes to mobility. The drops in emissions levels during periods of lockdown has put a focus on the impact commuting has on the environment.

Many efforts have been made to tackle climate change over the years and the government’s recent announcement of the 2030 goal to phase out new petrol and diesel cars is definitely a step in the right direction. However there is now added pressure to figure out the logistics of transitioning the UK’s petrol and diesel drivers to electric vehicles (EVs), in just ten years. To do so, hesitancies around the reliability of EVs must be overcome to get consumers on the right side of change, yet research finds that only two fifths are willing to make the electric vehicle leap.
 
So how can UK drivers be encouraged away from the side-lines of environmental change?
 
Putting action behind words
 
Research has found that Brits like to boast of their eco-consciousness, with 76% of the population admitting that they are aware of the environmental impacts of driving. However, when it comes to making active decisions to support this awareness, many voices seem to fall silent.
 
Amongst reasons for hesitation, many highlight the need for greater knowledge about the capabilities and benefits of electric vehicles. The study found that almost a third (32%) of drivers who are open to EVs require a greater availability of charging points to make the switch, whilst one in five (20%) of those currently not considering an EV would consider buying one if their range were greater.
 
Drivers will need to understand what they can get in return when being encouraged to make a switch that may seem financially unnecessary in the current climate. There are already some initiatives in place to incentivise drivers to choose more sustainable options, including a reduction on tax, the drop to a 0% benefit-in-kind (BiK) rate and Emissions Based Parking (EBP). However, without a widespread effort to increase the knowledge around EVs, the UK will struggle to meet the set goals.
 
Turning UK behaviours around
 
Global initiatives to raise awareness around pollution levels and global warming have caught the attention of many. So much so that just under half (42%) view driving as the most polluting form of transport, which in turn impacts their considerations when travelling. Nevertheless, despite this knowledge and the push for more eco-conscious behaviour, only 38% say that the environmental impact affects the amount of driving that they do.
 
The pandemic has also highlighted concerns from UK drivers when it comes to e-mobility, particularly in metropolitan areas. Research has found that more than half of drivers would like to choose more environmentally friendly methods of transport when travelling, but feel safer in their standard car, with the majority of drivers in agreeance residing in London (63%).
 
This highlights that despite many becoming even more appreciative of cleaner air and healthier environments, ingrained behaviours are difficult to change. With only a decade to go until the phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles, this alarming insight should urge the government and automotive industry to take action to get all UK drivers on board.
 
Millennials leading the way to 2030
 
It may not seem surprising to some, but the UK’s most eco-centric generation lies within the millennial age bracket– especially when questioning their mobility choices.
 
Research carried out in 2019 found that seven in ten (71%) millennials admit that their awareness of their carbon footprint impacts how much they drive, compared to only 48% of the UK’s senior citizens. A year later the UK’s younger generation is still leading the way, with 49% confessing that they regularly think about their environmental impact when driving. This explains why over half (53%) of the UK’s Gen Y population are leaning towards an electric car for their next purchase.
 
However, the survey also found that the pandemic has hindered millennials actions when it comes to climate change. 56% say they would like to choose more environmentally friendly methods of transport when travelling, but ultimately feel safer in their car. Despite millennials waving the flag of eco-consciousness, they are clearly less outspoken than before the pandemic – and action needs to be taken.
 
Pushing for widespread EV knowledge
 
The pandemic has prompted a strong wave of activism in the area of sustainability, but demonstrations alone will not be enough to drive the level of change needed across the country to support government aspirations. With only a third of UK drivers willing to make the shift to EVs, there is a call for more to be done by businesses, special interest groups and local communities to inch the country closer to the 2030 goals.
 
Consumers are in need of a wider and more in depth understanding of how they will be making the country more sustainable, but this can only be driven by businesses and operators. Organisations need to promote what EVs can offer drivers, how far they can really go and the ever-growing availability of charging points. A widespread understanding of the financial benefits, such as the BIK scheme and emissions based parking, can also be used to incentivize drivers and reduce concerns related to money. With the spread of knowledge being driven by businesses, interest groups and councils, motorists will be able to have a clearer picture of what the future of electrified mobility will look like and make informed decisions when investing in EVs in the years to come.
 
 
Author: Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director at RingGo