Why bigger electric car discounts are likely in 2020

Car makers face billions in fines for failing to hit EU emissions targets, meaning car buyers can expect increased incentives for going electric...

Audi E-tron charging
Author Avatar
Steve Huntingford
3 Jan 2020 12:40

UK car buyers are likely to be offered bigger discounts on electric cars and plug-in hybrids in 2020, as manufacturers attempt to avoid EU fines brought about by tough new emission rules which were introduced on 1 January.

Across 2020 and 2021, manufacturers who sell more than 300,000 cars per year are required to meet an average CO2 figure of just 95g/km (albeit with 5% of the highest-emitting vehicles not included in 2020), with a fine of €95 (£81) per car applied for each gram per km by which they miss the target.

Ratings agency Moody’s has calculated that the biggest car manufacturers in Europe are in line for fines totalling €2.4bn (£2bn).

The threat has been exacerbated by the recent decline in the popularity of diesel models, which have lower CO2 emissions than petrols; diesel engines are now favoured by just a quarter of UK car buyers, compared with more than half prior to the diesel emissions scandal.

One way for car makers to make the EU target more achievable is to sell large numbers of zero or ultra-low emissions vehicles to offset all the petrol and diesel models that don’t meet the required standard. Indeed, every car with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km that's sold in 2020 is counted twice when the EU is working out a manufacturer's average; in 2021 these models will be counted 1.67 times.

Despite sales of fully electric cars growing exponentially in recent years, they still represented just 1.5% of total UK car sales in 2019 – a figure that manufacturers will need to grow significantly, even if it means offering bigger incentives.

This is good news for car buyers looking to go electric, but conversely it could mean smaller discounts on higher-emitting petrol and diesel models.

Even though the UK is due to leave the EU at the end of January, UK new car registrations will continue to count towards each manufacturer's average CO2 during the transition period, which is scheduled to run until the end of 2020.

A host of new electric models will go on sale in 2020, including the Ford Mustang Mach E, Honda E, Jaguar XJ, Vauxhall Corsa-e, Volkswagen ID 3 and Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

View the latest deals on What Car?'s New Car Buying service >>


The top 10 electric cars on sale today

While the number of electric cars available will increase dramatically this year, there are plenty of excellent models already on sale. Here we count down our current top 10 – and reveal the ones that are best avoided.

10. Tesla Model X

Save money on a new Tesla Model X with What Car? >>

Tesla Model X

On paper, Tesla's all-electric family SUV seems to be the dream all-rounder, combining the luxury of a Range Rover Sport with the green credentials of an electric car. In practice, its low running costs and practical interior are hard to fault, and even entry-level versions aren't short on pace, but parts of its interior do feel a little cheap given the price.

Read our full Tesla Model X review >>


9. Seat Mii Electric

Save money on a new Seat Mii Electric with What Car? >>

Seat Mii Electric 2019 LHD front cornering shot

If you're looking for a small electric car to primarily use in the city, the Mii Electric should definitely be on your shortlist. It might not have the range to match larger electric cars, but that means costs are kept sensible, and we reckon 161 miles on a full charge should still be enough for most buyers. 

Read our full Seat Mii Electric review >>


8. Mercedes EQC

Save money on a new Mercedes EQC with What Car? >>

Mercedes-Benz EQC front three quarters

The EQC is a brilliant choice if you want to maximise the peace and quiet offered by going electric: it really is incredibly hushed on the move. But while it's generally comfortable on motorways, it doesn't ride as well as the very best rivals and its range is someway off the Jaguar I-Pace's.

Read our full Mercedes EQC review >>


Next: the top 10 continued >>

Page 1 of 4