UK electric sales fall in 2023 due to incentive removals

Sales of electric vehicles in the UK plummeted from 186% in 2020 to just 15% in 2023 due to the removal of government incentives, a new report has found.

A study by automotive experts at Leasing Options has revealed the European countries offering the most monetary incentives to switch to EVs and compared the increase and decrease in sales compared to the years these incentives were in place.The UK ranked 23rd out of 30 for purchase incentives across Europe.

The research analysed 30 countries throughout Europe, looking at how much money was offered to drivers to consider an electric vehicle, to reveal the country whose incentives had driven the biggest shift towards electric cars and how removing these incentives impacted sales.

In 2020 and 2021, the UK government implemented a BEV purchase scheme offering £3,000 to drivers for purchasing a zero-emission car up to £50,000. The adoption of BEVs saw an initial increase of 185.9% in 2020 and a 76.3% increase the following year.

In 2022, the amount was halved by the government to £1,500. BEV sales still increased but by only 40.1%. Currently, in 2023, there is no purchase scheme available. This has dropped the projected uptake to an increase of only 14.5% according to half-year sales figures – the lowest in four years.

The UK ranked 23rd out of the 30 countries analysed for the average purchase incentive offered for electric vehicles with an average of £1,875 over the last three years.

They faired a little better with average BEV sales increasing, with a 79% average growth over the three years. However, this did lag behind the top countries, with Slovenia’s sales increasing 228% and Greece’s 159%, other European countries are seeming to be ahead in pushing electric sales.

Top 10 countries offering the most incentives from 2020-2023



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Romania comes out on top as the number one country for providing the highest average BEV purchase incentives over the last four years, (2020-2023). Their government incentivises drivers by offering them a grant of £10,041.83 (up from £9,823.53) to purchase a new BEV and scrap their old car. By the end of 2019, Romania recorded 1,506 BEV sales. By the end of 2023, it is projected that number will have increased by nearly 10 times, to 13,996 sales, an average increase of 79%.

At the other end of the purchase incentives leaderboard are eight countries that have not offered any grants to their drivers over the last four years. Those countries are Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Malta and Switzerland.

Decreasing Incentives causes 84% sales drop across Europe

When you take the purchase incentives that have been lowered from the previous year, the average BEV sales drops by 84% compared to when it is increased.

Slovakia’s data is a prime example of this. Where an incentive of £6,982.10 was in place in 2020, BEV sales increased by 456.4%. In 2021 the purchase incentive was removed and BEV sales grew by only 20.4% – a reduction of 436%.

Germany has another similar reaction to incentives removals, In 2023, their purchase incentive dropped for the first time in four years, from £7,863.12 to £5,897.34. The result is projected to cause sales to decrease for the first time as well, at -6.6%.

Increasing incentives boosts BEV sales by 117.9%

Malta is a good example of this how incentives increase sales, between 2020 and 2022, Malta had no incentive scheme in place and BEV sales were down in 2020 compared to the year prior at -51.4%. Sales recovered to a 13.1% increase in 2021 and then only a minimal rise again in 2022 by 20%. However, by 2023, the government implemented a £10,473.15 incentive for purchasing a BEV and scrapping their old vehicle. The decision saw Malta’s BEV sales increase dramatically, according to half-year statistics, resulting in a projected full-year increase of 120.4% in BEV sales.

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