Smart Transport

UK plug-in vehicle sales growth continues in November

A Nissan Leaf plugged into an on-street charger

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) recorded their third largest ever monthly share of UK new car registrations in November.

According to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), BEV sales grew by 122.4% to 10,345 units and plug-in hybrids saw growth of 76.9% to 7,727 units.

It took BEV market share to 9.1% of total volumes, while plug-in hybrids accounted for a market share of 6.8% for a combined total of over 18,000 zero-emission capable vehicles.

The overall total of vehicle registrations continued a downward trend with volumes falling by 27.4% due to the second Covid-19 lockdown.

The decline was less severe than that seen during the first lockdown – when registrations fell by a record -97.3% in April alone – largely because this time around, retailers and manufacturers were able to be better prepared to fulfil orders via delivery or click and collect.

Despite these innovations, private demand still fell by -32.2% while registrations by large fleets saw a decline of -22.1%.

Demand for diesel and petrol vehicles fell by 56.2% and 41.9% respectively.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Compared with the spring lockdown, manufacturers, dealers and consumers were all better prepared to adjust to constrained trading conditions.

“But with £1.3 billion worth of new car revenue lost in November alone, the importance of showroom trading to the UK economy is evident and we must ensure they remain open in any future Covid restrictions.

“More positively, with a vaccine now approved, the business and consumer confidence on which this sector depends can only improve, giving the industry more optimism for the turn of the year.”

Industry views

Amanda Stretton, sustainable transport editor at Centrica, said the data from SMMT shows that drivers are keen to make the switch.

She said: "As we head towards the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel models it’s important to address the supporting structures needed to make the transition accessible.

“We support a Zero Emission Mandate for car manufacturers to ensure the new 2030 date can be met, but in the interim EV purchase grants will need to continue.

"Charging infrastructure and energy systems will also need to be upgraded to cope with the demand.”

Peter Barnes, partner and head of automotive at global legal business DWF, said there is the anticipation is that growth for EV and plug-in hybrid sales will continue following the Government's decision on a 2030 ban for new petrol and diesel vehicles.

He said: "However, whilst the 2030 date had been backed by businesses operating some of the UK’s largest private-sector fleets, many carmakers and trade bodies have expressed anger at the new target, claiming that the industry is not ready to deliver such a rapid transition, and that the costs of the transition will need to be passed on to the consumer in the absence of further Government support."

David Borland, EY UK & Ireland automotive leader, said the UK can be a long-term competitive player in automotive manufacturing if there is significant investment in battery development, production and the associated supply chain.

Borland said: "The investment confirmed in the Spending Review is a welcome first step in the right direction for both the UK automotive sector and consumers.

“The consumer grants will reduce the impact of the higher purchase price of BEVs and will be an important factor in the shift to zero emission vehicles.

“Investment in the energy sector and charging infrastructure is also a critical step forward, alleviating the concerns of many potential EV buyers around: access to charging at home, duration of charge times, and anxiety over sufficient battery range.

"But given recent estimates of the number of charging points needed across the UK to support mainstream EV adoption by consumers, further investment may still be needed to support successful roll-out and adoption."

Ashley Barnett, head of consultancy at leasing company Lex Autolease, said that in the context of the 2030 ban, the reality for businesses (and individuals) to make the shift to EV is now much more pressing.

Based on a typical four-year vehicle replacement cycle, businesses will have just over two cycles to make the necessary changes.

Barnett said: "To keep up this momentum, government departments, manufacturers and industry bodies must come together to help accelerate the transition.

"A key part of this strategy must be ensuring there is a plan for the second-hand market for EVs. Without that, transitioning the 32m+ vehicles currently on the UK roads will be a challenge.

“Similarly, although the year-on-year increase in EVs is welcome, it’s important to remember that the total number of EVs, including PHEVs, on the UK’s roads still only accounts for 1.5% of vehicles.

"For pure EVs it’s lower still – less than half a percent. As the momentum shifts away from petrol and diesel vehicles, drivers need long-term reassurances that fiscal incentives and other perks such as congestion charge exemptions for zero emission vehicles will remain.”

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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