electric charging Prius plug-in hybrid close up

Online car sales sites are reporting a surge of interest in electric vehicles since panic buying caused many forecourts to run out of fuel.

Karen Hilton, chief commercial officer at online car marketplace heycar, said: “This trend is clearly illustrated in the numbers of leads we are sending to our dealer partners.

“In the last seven days (20 - 27 September), demand for electric cars was up 159% year-on-year, suggesting people are seriously starting to consider the most sustainable and safe way to get back out there.”

She said the spike in interest was also fuelled by commuters who wished to avoid public transport due to the Covid-19 pandemic, avoid public transport wherever possible and were using cars instead.

Used car buying and finance company Choosemycar.com said it had seen an increase of 37% in users searching for electric cars in the past week.

New research commissioned by the company also showed that more than a quarter of people will now look to purchase an electric car as their next vehicle due to the recent fuel shortage.

The research was part of a bigger study on how the crisis has affected UK drivers fuelling habits. They showed that close to a quarter of UK drivers admitted to heading to the pumps unnecessarily, or filling up with more fuel than they ordinarily would.

Men were more likely to take action, with 26% taking action, compared to 22% of women. Different age groups also responded differently, with the younger age bracket of 18-34 seeing 37% admitting to filling up, while 22% of the 35-54 age bracket took action and 17% of the over 55s.

There were also variations geographically. Regionally, the West Midlands and Greater London were most likely to fill up, both seeing 37% admitting to fuelling up. Whereas the Yorkshire and Humber region was more relaxed, with just 17% taking action.

Choosemycar.com founder Nick Zapolski said: “While it’s easy to pass judgement on other drivers, our stats show that millions of UK drivers didn’t want to take any chances. In fact, it’s such a concern that we’re now seeing a significant increase in searches for electric cars.

“Although we were told there actually was no shortage of fuel, the long queues and endless stations running out was enough to send a quarter of us to the pumps.

“It just shows how reliant we have all become on our cars and the anxiety it creates when we believe we might not have access to one. It shows the importance of having a reliable, working car and the impact they have on our lives, and perhaps will spark renewed interest in electric vehicles in the future.”