THE COMING year is being heralded as a potential breakthrough period for electric cars in the UK after newly-released figures showed a surge in demand for electric models over the last 12 months.
According to Go Ultra Low, a joint initiative between UK Government and the British car industry, more new plug-in cars than ever were sold across the country last year. Over that time, 72,834 plug-in hybrid, battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell models were registered in the UK — equating to one new plug-in model arriving on UK roads every seven minutes on average last year.
The rapid rise isn’t a one-off, according to Go Ultra Low, as 2019’s total marks the eight consecutive year of growth for plug-in car demand in the UK.
As well as representing a 21% increase over the 59,911 plug-in car registrations of 2018, Go Ultra Low says the 72,000+ total from 2019 made 2019 the UK’s best year ever for plug-in hybrid and electric car registrations. According to the group, last year’s surge means 2019’s plug-in hybrid and pure-electric car sales account for more than a quarter (26.8%) of the 271,524 total on UK roads.
Breaking down those figures even further shows car buyers based in the South East of England had a big part to play in that electric car sales surge. According to Go Ultra Low, 26,136 of the plug-in and pure-electric car sales last year came from that corner of the country.
So popular are plug-in cars in the South East, the area’s sales for 2019 were greater than the combined totals of the UK’s next two leading regions for electric car sales: the West Midlands (11,623 registrations) and the South West of England (8.128 registrations).
These rapid rises in plug-in car demand also come during a continued downturn in UK new car sales overall. Last year’s 2.31m new car registrations was a 2.4% reduction on the 2.37m registrations from the year before, and marked the third consecutive year of decline since the UK sales peaked in 2016 with an all-time record of 2.69m new car registrations.
Go Ultra Low didn’t indicate what may have caused demand for electric cars to rise so much, though it did suggest one factor could be the variety of new plug-in models that have been introduced to the UK. It pointed out that the number of available models has grown “from only two or three back in 2010 to more than 50 today”.
However, while the initiative is heralding 2020 to be a “landmark year” for electric car sales in light of a flood of new models due in the next 12 months, plug-in cars still have a long way to go before they’re a dominant force in the new car market. According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the trade body that represents the UK car industry, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric cars accounted for just 3.1% of all new car registrations in 2019.
Poppy Welch, Head of Go Ultra Low said: “In the context of the wider new car market, it is encouraging to see plug-in car registrations continue to go from strength-to-strength. Looking at the year ahead, 2020 is set to be another fantastic year for electric car uptake.
“With even more new models being released, ongoing government support, as well as the continued expansion of the public charging infrastructure, we’re confident that the next 12 months will be a landmark year for the nation’s switch to electric.”