Electric car sales UK: near-7% market share in September 2020

New-car registrations continue to recover, with electric and plug-in hybrid market share growing year-on-year

Vauxhall Corsa-e

The UK new-car market has suffered its worst September since twice-yearly plate changes were introduced, but as in previous months there was strong growth in the proportion of car sales that were electric or hybrid.

Pure-electric car sales went from 7,704 in September 2019 to 21,903 in September 2020 – a 184% increase. Year-to-date, 66,611 pure-electric cars have been sold in the UK so far in 2020, which is up from the 25,097 that had been sold by the same point in 2019 – a 165% increase. The total share of the new-car market so far in 2020 made up of pure-electric cars now stands at 6.7%

A total of 12,400 plug-in hybrid cars were registered in September 2020, which was a 138% increase on September 2019's figure Year-to-date, the plug-in hybrid market is up 83.7%, with 42,277 of them having been registered so far in 2020, against 23,015 at the same point in 2019.

While the Tesla Model 3 sold strongly through lockdown, it has since fallen out of the overall top 10 most registered models. The Vauxhall Corsa (now available in pure-electric Corsa-e guise) took the top spot in July, slipped to fifth in August, but was back on top in September.

Other models in the top 10 also available with electric or hybrid powertrains include the Mercedes A-Class (third) and Volvo XC40 (ninth). The Volkswagen Golf (fifth, below) is now available as a plug-in hybrid GTE model.

The Corsa, Golf and A-Class all feature in the year-to-date best-sellers, too, alongside the MINI Hatchback (now available as a pure-electric model). The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling model overall.

Despite signs in previous months that the UK car market was beginning to recover from the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, registration numbers overall were still down nearly 4.4% in September versus the same month last year. Year-to-date the market is now down 33.2% on 2019.

The UK hybrid and electric-car market in 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. A total of 37,850 electric vehicles joined the UK’s roads last year, up from 15,510 in 2018. This was despite total car sales – which are still dominated by petrols and diesels – falling by 2.4% over the 12 months of 2019.

Elsewhere, plug-in hybrid registrations rose for the second month in succession in December 2019, with 21.8% more PHEVs sold then compared to December 2018. Total sales for the year remained significantly down, however, with 17.8% fewer plug-in hybrids being registered compared with 2018. Battery-electric vehicles now represent a larger proportion of the new car market than plug-in hybrids.

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.

The most popular fully-electric car was the Tesla Model 3, though part of this is due to pent up demand for a car that only launched in 2019. The Nissan Leaf was the second best-seller, with the Jaguar I-Pace in third. The most popular plug-in hybrid was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, followed by the BMW 3 Series and BMW 5 Series. The new LEVC taxi made the list, too, sandwiched between the MINI Countryman hybrid and Volvo XC90 in sixth place.

While the overall market share for electric and hybrid cars remained low, demand for these models was rising at a rapid rate: Kia boosted supply of its popular e-Niro SUV in order to clear its lengthy waiting list.