An evidence briefing, written by Dr Christian Brand and Prof Jillian Anable, has been published by the ESRC. Moving to a low-carbon economy is an important part of the Government's Industrial Strategy. A large-scale uptake of electric cars will enable significant cuts in carbon emissions, but needs policy support.

About the research

The mass-market adoption of electric vehicles is widely seen as a cornerstone of the strategy to achieve the legally required carbon emissions cuts in the UK transport sector. An analysis by the UK Committee on Climate Change suggests that nine per cent of new car sales should be electrical vehicles by 2020, 60 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by the 2040s to meet carbon budgets cost-effectively - a rate of nearly doubling mass-market adoption of plug-in vehicles (PIV) year on year. However, the uptake of PIV has been slow, with key barriers being recharging requirements, concerns about vehicle range, higher upfront purchase costs, lack of knowledge and limited choice of vehicles. Many of the transport modelling studies informing UK policy ignore the varied and segmented nature of the car market, as well as the psychological and sociological factors affecting consumer behaviour.

The ECI's and TSU's Christian Brand and colleagues from the UK Energy Research Centre have developed a model to explore different scenarios of timing and scale for PIV uptake in the UK car market. The results show the importance of accounting for the complex and changing nature of the car market and the potential effects on wider lifecycle emissions from different uptake scenarios - providing policy-focused evidence on likely scenarios for mass-market transition to PIVs. This essentially shows that the market (r)evolution towards electric vehicles will need significant and sustained policy and industry support.

For key findings and policy implications of this research see the ESRC evidence briefing and journal publication.