With the front pages occupied by stories of by-elections, bent coppers and arguments about fishing, you could be forgiven for missing some of the positive news to come out of the car industry of late. With lockdown restrictions easing, things are beginning to return to normal, and while that’s good news for everyone, it seems particularly positive for the electric car industry, electric car drivers, and even electric car enthusiasts.
The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – a kind of industry body that represents UK car makers and dealers – show new car registrations began their return to normal in April as dealers were allowed to reopen. With 141,583 new cars registered last month, the market was down just 12.9% on its 10-year average for the month of April – a vast improvement considering we’ve experienced record demand for new cars over the past decade.
Spearheading that recovery were electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids. EVs made up 6.5 percent of all new cars sold last month, while plug-in hybrids accounted for 6.8 percent of the market. Over the first four months of 2021, those technologies have accounted for 7.2% and 6.4% of the market respectively, up from 4% and 2.8% during the same period last year.
It seems much of that demand is driven by the UK’s big cities, with new research from AA Cars showing Londoners are the most likely to search for a used EV on the company’s website. Bristol came in second, with Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool rounding out the top five.
Given that interest in electric vehicles, it’s no surprise to see yet more brands announcing plans to go all-electric. But you might be surprised to hear Norfolk-based sports car manufacturer Lotus taking the pledge. Yep, according to Electrive.com, the cult company is going to abstain from petrol and fill its cars with batteries and electric motors. Lotus founder Colin Chapman urged his designers to simplify and add lightness, and given the lack of complexity in electric powertrains, the move is in line with the first part of that philosophy of simplification. It’ll be fascinating to see what engineering witchcraft the British firm uses to manage the second part.
While Lotus works out its engineering plans, we’ll focus on some electric cars that are already on sale. Japanese car maker Nissan has joined the throng of car makers that have cut their prices in the wake of changes to the government’s Plug-In Car Grant. According to Fleet News, the company has slashed the price of its Leaf electric hatchback to ensure every model in the line-up is eligible for the Plug-In Car Grant, which is now only available for cars costing less than £35,000.
Sadly, that rule will keep the new Kia EV6 out of contention. The Tesla Model 3 rival is now available to order in the UK, but prices start at just under £41,000. That buys you the entry-level car with 228hp and rear-wheel drive, and you get 19-inch alloys, LED headlights and “vegan leather” upholstery thrown in as standard.
Moving up to the GT-Line car lifts the price to £43,895, but you get some sportier styling, front parking sensors and wireless phone charging. You also get the option of four-wheel drive, courtesy of a 325hp dual-motor set-up. Alternatively, you can upgrade to the GT-Line S, which comes with the same powertrain range but gets bigger alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and a posh hi-fi system, as well as heated and ventilated front seats and a power-operated tailgate.
Finally, the range is crowned by the EV6 GT, which comes with 585hp and four-wheel drive as standard. The car won’t go on sale until next year, when it will arrive with model-specific styling tweaks, bucket seats and electronically controlled suspension to maximise performance.
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