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More than 1 in 4 new cars sold in UK are battery powered or hybrid

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Sale of battery electric vehicles rocketed last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (Credit: Shutterstock)
Sale of battery electric vehicles rocketed last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (Credit: Shutterstock)

More than one in four new cars sold in the UK are now electrified in some way, according to figures released today (6 January).

Sale of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rocketed last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with more registered than over the previous five years combined.

In 2021, people bought 190,727 new BEVs, along with 114,554 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), accounting for 18.5% of all new cars registered. 147,246 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) were registered – a further 8.9% market share – with 27.5% of the total market now electrified in some form.

Despite the success of electric and hybrid models, new car registrations only grew by 1% in 2021. The SMMT said that the figures underline the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the semiconductor shortage on the industry, with the market down 28.7% on pre-pandemic 2019, making 2021 the second worst year since 1992.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes 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 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. It is only in ninth position in Europe for BEVs by market share however, underlining the progress still to be made ahead of the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.  

“Recent announcements, including cuts to both purchase incentives and grants for home chargers, put the achievement of industry and the government’s net zero ambitions at risk,” an SMMT announcement said. “The slow pace of growth in on-street public charging – where, on average, 16 cars potentially share one standard on-street charger – could put the brake on EV demand and undermine the UK’s attractiveness as a place to sell electric cars.”


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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