Sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids grew by almost a third in the first half of 2016, compared with the same period a year earlier. New registrations during the six-month period totalled 19,252, up by 31.8%.
In the first half of last year, sales of plug-ins and EVs totalled 14,612 – at the time an even more dramatic upward surge from just 4,096 sold in the first six months of 2014.
March 2016 marked the best-ever month for sales in the electric sector, amounting to 7,440 cars, boosted by the registration-plate change from 65 to 16 at the start of the month. On a quarterly basis, the latest figures mark the 22nd straight quarter of sales growth, demonstrating that an increasing proportion of buyers are opting for cars that come with a plug.
The electric sector remains a tiny segment of overall car sales in the UK, however. New registrations of all varieties of car grew by 3.2% in the first half of 2016 to reach more than 1.42 million. Plug-ins and EVs accounted for only 1.36% of the total.
The so-called alternatively fuelled vehicle category, which includes plug-ins, EVs, non-plug-in hybrids and hydrogen cars, accounted for 3.2% of the new car market. The remainder was roughly equally split between diesel (at 47.5%) and petrol cars (at 49.2%).
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV remains the UK’s most popular plug-in car, racking up 5,738 sales in the first half of 2016. According to Mitsubishi, the UK now accounts for 20% of global Outlander PHEV sales.
Nissan’s Leaf is the UK’s most popular choice among pure battery EVs, with 2,336 registrations in the first six months of 2016.
Increasing availability of charging infrastructure may be helping to boost the uptake of EVs, with Nissan this week forecasting that the number of public charging locations in the UK will surpass the number of conventional filling stations by the summer of 2020.
The number of fuel stations has been falling for decades, with just 8,472 still operating in the UK at the end of 2015 compared with more than 37,500 in 1970. Nissan projects that the number of forecourts will have fallen below 7,900 by August 2020, while the number of EV charging stations will have expanded to exceed that number over the same period.
Whilst the majority of electric vehicle charging takes place at home, almost all UK motorway services now provide charging stations, including rapid chargers that can replenish a Leaf’s battery to 80% in 30 minutes. The latest 30kWh Leaf models can reliably travel more than 100 miles on a full charge.
Plug-in and EV sales figures were released this week by Go Ultra Low – a promotional body set up by government and the car industry to promote take-up of low emissions vehicles. It is backed by OLEV, the government office that administers the Plug-in Car Grant. It provides discounts of up to £2,500 for plug-in cars and up to £4,500 for zero-emission cars including battery EVs.
Go Ultra Low has forecast that electric power will be the dominant form of propulsion for all new cars in the UK by 2027.
By Lem Bingley