British drivers bought more electric cars in March than in the whole of 2019, even as broader market declines, according to figures that underline the UK’s accelerated pace of shift away from internal combustion engines.
According to a lobby group of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 39,315 new battery electric vehicles are registered every month. In 2019, there were 37,850 electrical sales.
Evidence of the growing demand for battery electric vehicles – which some analysts believe will become the most popular type of fuel by 2025 – has provided a bright spot for the car industry at a time when it has struggled with computer chips for more than a year. Supply disruption.
Across total electric and fossil fuel vehicles, sales in the UK in March were the lowest in 24 years.
March is an important month for the UK car industry, as shoppers line up for the latest number plates – a status symbol that can help maintain secondhand standards for months to come.
The slowdown in new car registrations is 14% lower than in March 2021, after two months of year-on-year sales growth. The industry is concerned that it has missed a strong demand – overwhelmed by household savings during the epidemic lockdown – and that household finances will be under pressure due to rising prices in the economy.
Jamie Hamilton, director of automotive and head of electric vehicle at Consultancy Deloitte, said: “The sector is now facing new economic challenges; Most notably high levels of inflation and pressure on living expenses. Collectively, these factors have contributed to a sharp decline in consumer and economic confidence, reducing any underlying paint-up demand for new cars. “
This comes at a time when petrol and diesel prices have risen to record levels in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Diesel prices in particular have risen, reaching a record high of 177p per liter, according to RAC. Diesel premiums on unleaded prices rose significantly to 14p, down from 3p at the beginning of the year.
Sierra Cook, research and policy officer at Thinktank New Automotive, said it was “encouraging” that diesel sales had fallen to less than 24,000 in 2022 in one year. Its diesel% showed that the government should continue to promote the conversion to electric vehicles.
However, he added that electric vehicle sales are the fastest growing segment of the market, and highlights particularly rapid growth in some areas of southern England, including the Kent and Peterborough / Cambridge areas, where one-third of sales were entirely electric.
Ian Plummer, director of the car sales website Autotrader, said: “At current rates, sales of new electric vehicles will surpass conventional petrol and diesel sales by 2025.
“There has already been massive growth in this sector and if anything, the demand for vehicles is now even stronger as pump prices have risen in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.”
However, increasing sales of electric vehicles means more demand for electric charging points.
In February, the Resolution Foundation warned that 10 million homes do not have off-street parking or access to private garages, so charging cars using cheap overnight electricity would cost less.
“Ministers need to make sure that we can adjust to that projected increase,” Plumer said.
The overall decline in UK car sales in March, generally the strongest month of the year, followed a 41% decline in production at British factories in February, the lowest level since the 1950s.
Registrations will fall below 250,000 as a result of a 14% drop in new car sales last month, compared to March’s average of 450,000 in the decade before the epidemic. This is the lowest March figure for new UK car sales since 1998.