High prices, a lack of charging points and limited battery range are being blamed for tumbling electric vehicle (EV) sales figures. The number of electric cars sold in Britain has fallen by a third since the start of the year.

Less than 1,000 battery powered cars have been sold since 1 January, (33.7 per cent down on a year ago), according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this week.

Mike Hawes, the society’s chief executive, said the low sales reflected “consumer concerns around charging infrastructure availability and affordability”, adding: “If zero-emission vehicles are to become mainstream in future, long-term government support with a consistent approach to incentives and tax, and greater investment in charging infrastructure will be critical.”

And sales could fall further as a government grant of £4,500 ends next month, with no replacement fund finalised as yet.

The SMMT figures showed more drivers were opting for hybrid vehicles powered by a petrol or diesel engine and supplemented by an electric motor. This has helped to push up overall sales of ultra-low emission vehicles since the start of the year by 19 per cent.

Over the longer-term the number of all-electric sales is up – 13,600 were sold last year, 32.5 per cent more than in 2016, but only 0.5 per cent of total new car sales.

The figures suggest the government still has a lot to do to meet its target of ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040. The cleanest hybrids will not be included in the ban, although the government said its ambition was for all new cars to be zero emission, suggesting pure electric or hydrogen.

Elsewhere, Energy UK has opened a consultation on smart charging standards, and is inviting comments from stakeholders across the energy, automotive and technology industries.

In an accompanying paper, the industry is clear that customers should be given the choice on how and when they charge their EV, but with options that encourage doing so at times of less demand.

Responses will be used to set out recommendations to government, which has committed to decarbonising transport in both the Clean Growth Strategy and the ongoing Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. It is hoped these recommendations will enable the government to begin consulting on smart charging standards as soon as possible.

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