Three-quarters of a million electric vehicles (EVs) now on UK roads

According to new Motorparc data released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the number of vehicles in the UK grew 0.4 percent to 40,506,971 in 2021. Overall car ownership fell 0.2 percent to 35,023,652 units. This marks the first consecutive annual decrease in car ownership in more than 100 years.

The big news is that in the UK more plug-in electric cars, vans, trucks and buses were put on Britain’s roads amid highly challenging pandemic and economic conditions. Electric car uptake is growing rapidly and now accounts for around one in five new registrations on the road in the UK.

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Electric vehicle (EV) ownership continues to grow at pace in the UK. Electric vehicle use rose by 71 percent to a total of 748,349 cars, vans, buses and trucks, with growth in all sectors. This is an impressive figure but looks set to grow even more rapidly in the coming years.

The current growth is thanks to billions of pounds of investment by the automotive industry in zero-emission cars, vans, trucks, buses and coaches, which are delivering an ever-growing choice of models. Nearly three quarters of a million vehicles on the road today can be plugged in, including 720,053 cars, 26,990 vans, 993 buses and 313 trucks.

In the commercial vehicle sector, 0.6 percent of vans are now plug-in electric. This indicates that the van sector is around two years behind that of cars. With the ban on sales of petrol and diesel vans coming into force in 2030, it shows there is some catching up needed here. 

Zero-emission public transport is picking up pace, with 1.3 percent of buses and coaches now battery electric. Electric trucks account for less than 0.1 percent of the HGV parc, as the development of unique zero-emission technology for these vehicles continues.

Electric car uptake also varies dramatically across the UK. A third (33.1%) of all plug-in cars are registered in London and the South East, representing 3 percent and 2.6 percent of all cars in each area. 

By contrast, 1.5 percent of cars in the West Midlands are plug-in electric, 1.9 percent in Yorkshire and Humberside, and 0.9 percent in the North East. 

Differences in uptake could also be seen across the four British nations, with plug-ins making up 2.2 percent of cars in England, 1.6 percent in Scotland, and 0.8 percent in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The majority of plug-in cars are registered to businesses rather than people, with 58.8 percent of all electric cars on the road being company registered. This reflects the fact that businesses receive broader, more generous incentives to make the switch than those offered to private consumers.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Britain’s switch to electric vehicles continues to gather pace, with a record one in five new car registrations now plug-ins. However, they still represent around one in 50 cars on the road, so there is significant ground to cover if we are to fully decarbonise road transport at pace.

“The first consecutive annual fall in vehicle numbers in more than a century shows how significantly the pandemic has impacted the industry, leading Britons to hold onto their cars for longer. With fleet renewal essential to net zero, we must build consumer confidence in the economy and, for drivers, confidence in the charging infrastructure to get the transition into top gear.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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