EVs show growth despite declining new car market

A report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has shown rapid growth in the market for new electric vehicles in August. New zero emission vehicle registrations increased by 377.5 per cent, allowing the zero emission sector to take a record 3.4 per cent of market share. The SMMT attributes much of this success to new models that are beginning to emerge, providing wider consumer choice at lower prices. While hybrid electric vehicle registrations increased by 36.2 per cent, plug-in hybrid registrations fell by 71.8 per cent, a figure more in line with those for the wider automobile market in August.

The wider market for new cars in the UK showed decline in August. Despite the record figures for electric vehicles, total new registrations decreased by 1.6 per cent, following a downward trend throughout the year. These figures are unsurprising however, as August is typically one of the slowest months for the automobile market according to the SMMT. The SMMT has attributed the decline to continuously falling demand for diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The diesel market could be considered to have shown improvement, falling at a slower pace than average in its 29th consecutive month of decline.

The figures indicate significant change in market expectations and the products demanded by consumers. UK consumers now have a wider pool of technology to choose from in a market that used to be solely comprised of petrol and diesel options. According to the SMMT, the UK automobile market now includes some 27 hybrids, 27 plug-in hybrids, and 24 zero emission battery electric and hydrogen models, while numerous firms have been investing in the development of charging points across the UK. On top of this, petrol and diesel engines are becoming more efficient, though decreases in the overall figures for new car registrations could mean that more people are remaining in cars with less efficient engines. While this could mean continued greenhouse gas emissions, the scrapping of cars before the end of their lifespan and the production of new cars has environmental consequences as well, and some researchers like Mike Berners-Lee have suggested that keeping old cars on the road is often less costly to the environment.

Chief Executive of SMMT Mike Hawes has said that last month’s record increase in electric vehicle registrations is “especially welcome”, but maintains that the road to net zero in the UK will be long, as manufacturers are unable to accurately predict changes in demand and uptake of zero emission vehicles. He suggests that governmental support for the industry could give consumers long-term confidence and help boost investment in new vehicle technology.

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