Electric car sales UK: 2018 sees 13.8% rise

Growth in electric car sales comes despite glum year for the overall market in 2018

Electric car sales in the UK rose by 59.3% in December 2018, with 1,534 units sold in the final month of the year, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

This brought overall electric car sales for the year up to 15,474; 13.8% higher than the figure achieved in 2017.

Meanwhile, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles enjoyed even bigger year-on-year gains, rising by 24.9% and 21.2% respectively.

Petrol-electric hybrids – such as the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid – remain the most popular type of alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV), with 81,156 sold in the last 12 months.

The rise of AFVs continues amid a tough year for UK car sales, which shrank by 6.8% overall in 2018. Diesel vehicle sales dropped by 26.3% in December – their 21st consecutive month of decline.

But while the growing popularity of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars has provided some  cause for optimism, they still only represent 6.2% of total sales in the UK.

And industry leaders are concerned that the reduction of incentives for zero-emission capable cars – brought into effect in October – will hinder growth in 2019, and keep more polluting vehicles on the roads for longer.

“Supportive, not punitive measures are needed to grow sales,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, “because replacing older cars with new technologies, whether diesel, petrol, hybrid or plug-in, is good for the environment, the consumer, the industry and the exchequer.”

He continued: “Despite the overall decline in 2018, demand for new cars in the UK remains solid, with volumes on a par with the preceding 15-year average, and the market still the second biggest in the EU, behind Germany. It is also one of the most diverse, with buyers able to choose from some 350 different models available in fuel types and body styles to suit all driving needs.

“Meanwhile, more than 80 exciting new-generation models – 31 of them plug-in electrics – are set to make their showroom debuts in 2019, and with some compelling deals on offer, the industry is continuing to invest to grow the market despite the headwinds.”