Battery EV uptake doubles but public charging rollout ‘lagging’

The latest SMMT figures show battery EV sales doubled in November compared to last year but warned public charging rollout is ‘lagging’ behind.

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed new car registrations grew 1.7% in November, bringing an end to four months of consecutive decline, with 115,706 units registered compared to the same period last year.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) equated to 18.8% of the market, with 21,726 units – more than double compared with November 2020 – while plug-in hybrid vehicles’ (PHEVs) share grew to 9.3% or 10,796 units.

Despite the growth of new car registrations, the SMMT states that the figures must be viewed in the context of a weak 2020, when lockdowns impacted registrations, including November. Compared to the pre-pandemic average, the market remains down significantly, with -31.3% fewer vehicles registered during the month.

Year-to-date, 1,538,585 new cars have been registered, of which 17.5% have been BEVs or PHEVs, meaning one in six new cars is capable of being plugged in. When combined with hybrid electric vehicles (9.0% share), more than a quarter (26.5%) of the new car market during 2021 has been electrified.

“With the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution.”

Despite this uptake in demand for plug-in vehicles, new SMMT analysis this month revealed that the pace of on-street public charging infrastructure rollout is lagging, with the number of plug-in cars potentially sharing a public on-street charger deteriorating from 11 to 16 between 2019 and 20202 and just one standard on-street public charger installed for every 52 new plug-in cars registered over the course of this year.

Britain’s ratio of plug-in vehicles on the road to standard public chargers (16:1) was one of the worst among the top ten global electric vehicle markets at the end of 2020. With plug-in vehicle uptake having grown by 86.6% in 2021, the SMMT is calling on the government to take action to avoid the ratio deteriorating further, by boosting the provision of public charging points through the imposition of binding targets.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “What looks like a positive performance belies the underlying weakness of the market. Demand is there, with a slew of new, increasingly electrified, models launched but the global shortage of semiconductors continues to bedevil production and therefore new car registrations. The industry is working flat out to overcome these issues and fulfil orders, but disruption is likely to last into next year, compounding the need for customers to place orders early.

“The continued acceleration of electrified vehicle registrations is good for the industry, the consumer and the environment but, with the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution, irrespective of where they live.”