Electric car sales UK: 2019 sees 144% rise in demand

Strong electric car sales in December drives total market share up to 1.6% for 2019

Electric-car sales shot up by 220% in December 2019, ensuring that battery-electric vehicle registrations ended the year with a record 1.6% share of the overall market.

37,850 electric vehicles joined the UK’s roads last year, up from 15,510 in 2018. This is despite total car sales – which are still dominated by petrols and diesels – falling by 2.4% over the last 12 months.

While the overall market share remains low, demand for electric cars is rising at a rapid rate: Kia has recently boosted supply of its popular e-Niro SUV in order to clear its lengthy waiting list.

Elsewhere, plug-in hybrid registrations rose for the second month in succession, with 21.8% more PHEVs sold last month than in December 2018. Total sales for the year remained significantly down, however, with 17.8% fewer plug-in hybrids being registered compared to the year before.

The 34,734 PHEVs sold in 2019 was less than the figure achieved by battery-electric vehicles, however this is likely due to the fact that several of the most popular models were taken off sale for a large portion of the year.

Sales of petrol-electric mild-hybrids increased on 2018 levels: 26,316 sales represents a 172.1% increase, although that number is dwarfed by the 740.5% increase achieved by diesel-electric hybrids.

Late in 2018, the Government’s plug-in car grant was restructured in such a way that all plug-in hybrids became ineligible for the previous £2,500 incentive. A discount for fully electric vehicles remains – albeit reduced from £4,500 to £3,500 – and future plug-in hybrids could qualify for this under the new rules, although they’d need to be capable of travelling at least 70 miles with zero tailpipe emissions.

At the time of writing, the BMW X5 xDrive45e comes closest with 54 miles of electric range.

Reacting to the latest figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “A third year of decline for the UK new-car market is a significant concern for industry and the wider economy. Political and economic uncertainty, and confusing messages on clean-air zones, have taken their toll on buyer confidence, with demand for new cars at a six-year low.

“A stalling market will hinder industry’s ability to meet stringent new CO2 targets and, importantly, undermine wider environmental goals. We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long-term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift.

"Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers, but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.”