Most successful year on record for electric vehicle market

More electric vehicles were registered last year than over the previous five years combined, according to the latest figures from the SMMT.

Whilst the overall new car market struggled to rebuild following a pandemic-ravaged 2020,  190,727 new battery electric vehicles (BEV) joined Britain’s roads, along with 114,554 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), meaning 18.5% of all new cars registered in 2021 can be plugged in.

This is in addition to the 147,246 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) registered which took a further 8.9% market share in a bumper year for electrified car registrations, with 27.5% of the total market now electrified in some form.

2021 new car registrations grew by a marginal 1.0% against the dire 2020, with 1.65 million new cars entering the UK market over the past year. The figures underline the ongoing impact of Covid and the semiconductor shortage on the industry, with the market down -28.7% on pre-pandemic 2019, representing the second worst year since 1992.

To date, more than 40% of models are now available as plug-ins, and the UK finished 2021 as the third largest European market for new car registrations but the second largest by volume for plug-in vehicles and the second largest for BEVs. However, it is only in ninth position overall in Europe for BEVs by market share.

In terms of the best-selling models for December 2021, the Tesla Model 3 topped the charts and finished the year as the second most popular vehicle overall. The Nissan Leaf also made it into the top ten most purchased cars last month, but no other electric vehicle was in the top ten for the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s been another desperately disappointing year for the car industry as Covid continues to cast a pall over any recovery. Manufacturers continue to battle myriad challenges, with tougher trading arrangements, accelerating technology shifts and, above all, the global semiconductor shortage which is decimating supply.

“Despite the challenges, the undeniable bright spot is the growth in electric car uptake. A record-breaking year for the cleanest, greenest vehicles is testament to the investment made by the industry over the past decade and the inherent attractiveness of the technology. The models are there, with two of every five new car models now able to be plugged in, drivers have the widest choice ever and industry is working hard to overcome Covid-related supply constraints.

“The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure. Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the roll out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want.”

Looking ahead, the latest forecast for 2022 – published in October, before the rise of the Omicron variant – is for 1.96 million new car registrations.

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