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High demand, low supply: 48% eager for electric driving lessons, but few find instructors with EVs

By Mathilda Bartholomew | March 1, 2024

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48% of drivers would be more inclined to take driving lessons in electric cars but only one in seven surveyed individuals can find a local instructor with a battery-powered model

High demand, low supply: 48% eager for electric driving lessons, but few find instructors with EVs

The aspiring drivers of the nation have voiced their preference for learning in electric cars. However, a recent study by Gridserve, a charging network, reveals an environmental dilemma in the UK. The shortage of driving instructors with electric vehicles is hindering the transition to electric motoring.

Gridserve's study indicates that 48% of drivers would be more inclined to take driving lessons in electric cars. Nevertheless, only one in seven surveyed individuals can find a local instructor with a battery-powered model.

Finding an electric vehicle instructor appears to be a geographical challenge. In London, 41% of learners can locate one, while the figure drops to one in 10 in Yorkshire or the East of England. The West Midlands fares better than average, with 23% able to access local EV driving lessons.

A parallel study by WhatCar? reports a remarkable 283% surge in the popularity of automatic tests compared to a decade ago, attributing this shift to the transition to electric vehicles. While electric cars are primarily praised for their zero emissions, the ease of driving is another significant attraction.

Despite electric cars not technically having automatic gearboxes, they are commonly perceived as such due to their single-speed transmissions, providing instant acceleration without the need for shifting through multiple gears. Surprisingly, driving test pass rates for automatic tests are lower than manuals, standing at around 41.7% compared to an overall average of 48.9% in 2021/22.

The increasing prevalence of automatic gearboxes in new cars may influence learner decisions, as only 24% of new mainstream cars on sale offer a manual gearbox. With the looming 2035 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, the prospect of driving a manual gearbox car seems diminishing. Consequently, 29% of learner drivers consider learning manual pointless, expecting to spend most of their driving life in an automatic EV. Additionally, 24% plan to celebrate passing their driving test by acquiring their first electric car.

Claire Evans, the consumer editor at What Car?, states "The popularity of automatic gearboxes is partly down to manufacturers and engineering trends, as well as the increase in demand for electric cars, which don't need traditional gearboxes.

And many younger drivers clearly don't see the need to learn to drive a manual given that they are slowly being phased out."

Younger, environmentally conscious drivers are driving the desire to learn in an electric vehicle, with 40% of those aged 18 to 24 more likely to choose an instructor offering lessons in an electric car.

However, there is a significant challenge to address: the low average pass rate for those learning in electric cars. According to Gridserve, only one in 10 parents with offspring using L-plates on electric vehicles witnessed their children passing the driving test. This aligns with the pass rate for combustion-engine automatic cars. The convenience and faster learning pace in automatic or electric vehicles may lead to a false sense of security, with learners gaining less on-road experience and road safety awareness, resulting in a higher fail rate.

Considering that over 70% of cars registered in 2023 are automatic, there may be increasing calls to address this pass rate issue and ensure a more comprehensive learning experience for aspiring drivers.

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