UK new car registrations surge in November 2023: Electric vehicles in the spotlight

  • UK new car registrations surged 9.5% in November, led by the fleet sector.
  • Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles excelled, but battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake in November dropped by -17.1%.
  • Stakeholders stress sustained growth, urging fiscal incentives, enhanced charging infrastructure, and a delay in strict UK-EU Rules of Origin to avoid EV tariffs.

Fleets push EVs in UK’s new car registrations, however, BEV registrations stall

According to the SMMT, new car registrations soared to 156,525 units in November in the UK automotive sector. That marks a robust 9.5% increase from the same period last year. The figures, released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), reveal a market on the brink of full recovery, with registrations just a razor-thin -0.1% below pre-pandemic levels.

Driving this surge is the fleet sector, accounting for a staggering 59.4% of the market and witnessing a remarkable 25.4% uptick. In contrast, private demand dipped by -5.9%, while business uptake experienced a sharper decline at -32.7%, totaling 2,970 units.

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However, the EV landscape in November presented a mixed picture…

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) took the spotlight, boasting impressive increases of 27.8% and 55.8%, respectively. Meanwhile, battery electric vehicle (BEV) uptake experienced a temporary setback, falling by -17.1% in November. Despite this, the year-to-date BEV performance is noteworthy, showing a robust 27.5% increase and commanding a 16.3% market share, set to climb further to 22.3% next year.

Yet, amid the positive trends, industry stakeholders emphasize the urgent need for sustained growth. In particular, fiscal incentives for private EV buyers and substantial investments in charging infrastructure are touted as crucial factors. The call for action extends to regulatory concerns, with an imminent need to postpone stringent UK-EU Rules of Origin, set to take effect on January 1, 2024. The delay is deemed vital to avoid tariffs on EVs traded between the UK and the EU, a move that could potentially impact consumer affordability during this critical transition phase.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, suggested: 

“Britain’s new car market continues to recover, fuelled by fleets investing in the latest and greenest new vehicles. With car makers gearing up to meet their responsibilities under new market legislation, and COP28 currently underway, now is the time to take sensible steps that will multiply that economic growth and minimise carbon emissions. 

Private EV buyers need incentives in line with those that have so successfully driven business uptake – and workable trade rules that promote rather than penalise the transition.”

Mike Hawes outlines the importance of incentives to buy new EVs. Especially as the ZEV Mandate closes in on the UK, threatening harsh penalties if manufacturers miss their green quotas. Meanwhile, Gav Murray at British Gas suggested charging infrastructure could be the cause of delay amongst would-be EV adopters. 

Gav Murray, EV Director at British Gas, said:

“It remains clear that electric vehicles hold great appeal for UK drivers and businesses, but much work remains to be done before they are accessible to all. 

According to the UK Electric Fleets Coalition, almost one in three UK households have no access to off-street parking, so ample publicly available charging infrastructure, including kerbside charging, will be essential to make the switch to an EV a reality. 

This is a key stumbling block not only for private vehicle ownership, but also for commercial fleet managers, who often need employees to be able to charge vehicles off-site and at home. That’s why we, along with a coalition of leading UK businesses, are calling for the government to accelerate its efforts to make EV charging available to everyone who will need it.” 

As the market surges ahead, industry leaders stress the importance of maintaining a sensible approach to propel economic growth and minimize carbon emissions. With the automotive landscape rapidly evolving, the focus on sustainable and zero-emission vehicles is undoubtedly steering the industry toward a greener future. 

However, without adequate government support and incentives, the rate of adoption is likely to plateau. At least, until the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles eventually rolls around and propels interest once again. What is clear to see though is that fleets are driving the transition across the UK. That means that fleet drivers and operators are experiencing the benefits of EVs first hand. Now, all they need is a reliable place to charge. 

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