14 May 2018

'Financial impact' policies change motorists' habits

Politicians' exhortations to motorists to go electric or use greener means of transportation don't have any impact on their own, but government policies can encourage changes according to an automotive consultant, writes Brian Byrne.

"It is when such policies have a financial impact on motorists that things change," UK-based automotive industry consultant Dean Bowkett told the recent Electronomous Car Tech Summit 2018 organised by Cartell.ie. "Everything depends on government policy, and when that policy says you will pay more, you'll change your habits."

He was speaking on the theme Electric Vehicles: the heir apparent to the diesel crown?

He gave the example of the big switch to diesel cars in Ireland when the CO2-based taxation system offered a financial incentive for motorists to do so.

But he described as a 'myth' the perception that it was the Volkswagen diesel debacle that caused the current decline in interest in the fuel. "The drop-off started as far back as 2012, when motorists found that they hadn't bought the right car for their needs, particularly in cities, and they were paying for expensive diesel particulate filters to be replaced."

In the UK, announcements of extra charges on diesel, and the plans to ban diesel cars from London also trimmed diesel car sales. "There's now a diesel 'rhetoric' that is driving down sales. Alternative fuels are picking up, but the real switch is to petrol." In the Irish market, recent sales figures show a steepening drop in diesel, most of which is being replaced by petrol. Hybrid power is taking most of the extra growth, 'as EV sales are rather flat'.

Bowkett suggested that car buyers are not yet switching en masse to hybrid, because they 'don't quite understand it' but the technology is growing in popularity.

Irish hybrid sales in 2017 totalled 4,528 in 2017, of which the vast bulk were Toyotas (3,583) and the balance divided between Lexus, Kia, BMW, Hyundai and Volvo. Electric car sales were 625, most sold by Nissan (263) and Hyundai (230) together, with the balance taken up by Renault, Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen.

On the matter of residual values of hybrid and BEVs, Bowkett said it differed by country. "In Denmark, for instance, residual performance of a Prius and a Leaf are similar, but in the UK a Prius holds its value by 30pc more than a Leaf does." He said a 13pc gap in favour of hybrid in residuals over BEVs is in line with the European average.