Electric vehicle manufacturers need to cut prices if they want to energise the market, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association has warned.

According to August sales data from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), just 812 buyers have taken up the government’s GBP5000 plug-in-car grant so far this year, suggesting that electric vehicles are still too expensive for most consumer and fleet buyers.

“More than a dozen new electric and hybrid vehicles are set to hit the UK market over the next year, but most of them will be decorating showrooms unless manufacturers are more realistic on pricing,” said BVRLA chief executive, John Lewis.

“Ultra-low carbon transport is a necessity and electric vehicles have a big part to play in getting us there but these vehicles are simply too expensive for most fleets at the moment.”

A simple calculation of ownership costs by the BVRLA suggests that a Nissan Leaf would cost GBP5,000 more to run than an equivalent diesel car over the typical three-year, 36,000 mile life cycle of a company car.

“With existing concerns over range anxiety and residual values, potential customers will need to see some real cost benefits if they are to adopt this exciting new technology in significant numbers,” said Lewis.

“With the retail car market in the doldrums, it is the fleet market that is responsible for nearly 60% of new registrations in the UK. Fleet customers don’t buy on sentiment – cost is their main criteria.”