Three quarters of a million electric vehicles now on UK roads

The number of electric vehicles on the road in the UK has risen by 71% despite an overall decline for car ownership.

According to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT),  nearly three quarters of a million vehicles on the road today can be plugged in, including 720,053 cars, 26,990 vans, 993 buses and 313 trucks.

Electric vehicle use has risen by 71% to 748,349 cars in the UK, with vans, buses and trucks seeing growth in all sectors.

While electric car uptake is growing rapidly, accounting for around one in five new registrations, plug-ins still only represent around one in 50 cars on the road, demonstrating the scale of the challenge ahead in convincing every driver to make the switch. Meanwhile, there are some 20.5 million petrol cars and 13 million diesels making up 58.6% and 37.1% of the car parc respectively, a combined total of 95.7%.

In the commercial vehicle sector, some 0.6% of vans are now plug-in electric, indicating that the van sector is around two years behind that of cars despite both vehicle classes having the same end of sale date for new petrol and diesel registrations. Zero-emission public transport is picking up pace, with 1.3% of buses and coaches now battery electric, while electric trucks account for less than 0.1% of the HGV parc, as the development of unique zero-emission technology for these vehicles continues.

Electric car uptake also varies dramatically across the UK. A third (33.1%) of all plug-in cars are registered in London and the South East, representing 3.0% and 2.6% of all cars in each area. By contrast, 1.5% of cars in the West Midlands are plug-in electric, 1.9% in Yorkshire and Humberside, and 0.9% in the North East. Differences in uptake could also be seen across the four British nations, with plug-ins making up 2.2% of cars in England, 1.6% in Scotland, and 0.8% in Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, the majority of plug-in cars are registered to businesses rather than people, while some 58.8% of all electric cars on the road company registered, reflecting the fact that businesses receive broader, more generous incentives to make the switch than those offered to private consumers.

Overall, new car registrations remained broadly static at 1.65 million, with car ownership falling -0.2% to 35,023,652 vehicles – the second year in a row the car parc has fallen and the first time the UK has experienced consecutive falls in more than a century.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Britain’s switch to electric vehicles continues to gather pace, with a record one in five new car registrations now plug-ins. However, they still represent around one in 50 cars on the road, so there is significant ground to cover if we are to fully decarbonise road transport at pace.

“The first consecutive annual fall in vehicle numbers in more than a century shows how significantly the pandemic has impacted the industry, leading Britons to hold onto their cars for longer. With fleet renewal essential to net zero, we must build consumer confidence in the economy and, for drivers, confidence in the charging infrastructure to get the transition into top gear.”

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