Momentum Grows in Europe to Increase EV Ownership Among Low Income Households

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As more countries strive for a future with total zero-emissions vehicles, there’s a growing movement aimed at making sure that low incomes families in the UK don’t get left behind pedaling outdated forms of transportation, which can keep them stuck in poverty, as detailed in a recent European study.

  • A new study finds that electric vehicles could help lower-income households in the UK save almost £350 million ($385 million) annually.
  • The report found that the 20 percent of those in the highest income bracket own more than half of all electric vehicles.
  • To address the disparity in EV ownership in the UK, the report references two initiatives in California and Scotland.

A new report suggests that lower-income households in the UK could save nearly £350 million ($385 million) annually if they had more affordable access to electric vehicles over internal combustion engine cars.

The study, released by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and Green Alliance, contends that zero-emissions vehicles are cheaper to own in the long run at a cost of anywhere, from £3,000 to £5,000 (roughly $3,300 to $5,500) over the lifetime of a vehicle, compared to a diesel vehicle.

But the report also found that EVs are still largely owned by the rich. In fact, the study found that those in the top 20 percent of the income bracket in the UK own more than half of all electric vehicles sold annually in the country.

By comparison, households in the lowest two income brackets made up just 4 percent of all electric vehicle owners from 2015 – 2017. But lower-income households accounted for more than 10 percent of all combustion engine car owners, which tends to burden them down with a host of other costs such as fuel, general maintenance and the expenses associated with repairing older vehicles.

The issues raised in the Environmental Defense Fund Europe and Green Alliance study parallel some concerns in the U.S. (Photo: Getty Images)

The UK study also noted that lower-income individuals are more likely to purchase older vehicles.

In addition, the report discusses the environmental impact of combustion engines, which are poised to have a disproportionate impact on low income residents if those issues continue to go undressed, as discussed in a report.

To help address the concerns, the report makes a number of recommendations aimed at helping to reduce the cost of EVs. The study specifically references initiatives in Scotland and California, which are aimed at making electric vehicles more accessible.

In Scotland, the study zeroes in on the country’s interest-free EV loan program, which offers up to £35,000 for a new fully electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle and a small subset of second-hand vehicles, as well as up to £10,000 for a new electric motorcycle or scooter.

For California, the report zeroes in on the State’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, which enables residents to receive a point-of-sale rebate – between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on whether the customer purchases a hybrid, a battery-electric car, or a fuel-cell electric vehicle. The rebate program also allows for a $2,000 “add-on” for low-income customers.


While the study by Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) and Green Alliance is focused on the disparities of electric vehicle ownership in the U.K, it also highlights a number of issues worth exploring in other European countries and in the U.S. as well. Despite some of the noted strides made in California, electric vehicle ownership still lags among low-income residents in the U.S. In fact, a report by The Hill found that of nearly 100,000 rebates issued by from California’s clean vehicle incentive program, 83 percent of recipients surveyed reported annual incomes of more than $100,000.

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