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Strong EV sales see plug-in cars pass key milestone

More than 100,000 plug in cars have been sold in the UK

Electric car registrations dramatically increased in May - officially passing the 100,000 unit threshold - as diesel sales saw a significant slump. According to SMMT figures, with more than 3,000 plug-in car sales, the recent changes in car tax look to be combining with uncertainty over forthcoming diesel regulations, swinging the market to greener models.
Pure EVs (EVs) have benefited most from the changes with a 79% increase in registrations compared to May 2016. The figure was more than a quarter more than last month too, and has seen more than 6,000 pure EVs registered so far this year - up almost half on the same period in 2016.
Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models are still seeing strong growth figures, though at 19% not at the same rate as EV registrations in May. With almost 2,200 sales in May 2017 PHEV registrations continue to outperform EVs and held 70% of the plug-in market share in May, primarily driven by business sales. Low company car tax rates compared to both diesel and petrol see many fleet managers and user-choosers picking PHEVs where practical to do so.
In fact PHEV sales are slightly down for 2017 to date versus with last year at 3%, but this is only a handful of registrations. A difference of just 329 registrations over the course of five months is effectively level.
Registrations of Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) eligible models still make up the vast majority of plug-in car sales, and are up a third compared to May 2016 at almost 3,000. With acceptance criteria including price and minimum electric range/CO2 levels, not all plug-in cars are eligible for the government grant, hence the variance in plug-in and PiCG figures - this month making up 96% of total plug-in sales.

With more than 185,000 new cars registered in May, the percentage of plug-in car sales sits at 1.7% for the month. This is clearly still a relatively small part of the UK new car market as a whole, but is showing steady growth compared to the 1.2% seen in May 2016. The market share for 2017 to date is now 1.6% compared to the completed 2016's of 1.4%, and the rolling 12-month average is 1.5%. It is also definite growth in a month that saw an 8.5% drop in overall car sales.
This continued growth has come at least in part from shrinking diesel sales. Down 20% in May - following on from April's -27% -, it is clear that consumer confidence in diesel sales is shaky if not shattered. The change in VED rates will have had an effect on a large number of diesel vehicles, making them more expensive to tax. Potentially of greater influence though are the planned low emission and clean air zones set to be introduced in a number of cities across the country which are likely to focus on diesel models on the grounds of air quality.
These factors are not only benefiting electric car sales, but those of alternative fuels in general - of which plug-in models are included. There were 8,258 alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) sold, with 3,117 of those plug-in cars. Petrol hybrid models have benefited from a slump in diesel confidence, with their often comparable fuel economy and emissions figures taking some sales. Total AFV registrations improved almost 50% from May 2016 and make up a 4.4% market share.