UK Hits Millionth Electric Car Sale, Boosted By Fleet Demand

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UK Reaches 1 Million EV Sales After 22 Years; January 2024 Sees 142,876 New Cars Sold, Including 20,935 EVs (a 21% Increase), Marking the Strongest Start Since 2020 Pandemic; EV Share Hits 14.7%; Fleet Purchases Fuel Month’s Growth as Private Sales Decline.

In January 2024, the United Kingdom celebrated a significant milestone with the registration of its millionth battery electric vehicle (BEV) while witnessing an 8.2% growth in the new car market, as reported by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This period saw a total of 142,876 new cars being registered, marking an increase of 10,882 units compared to January 2023 and establishing it as the most robust January for the UK car market since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Remarkably, this January also marked the 18th consecutive month of market growth, predominantly fueled by a 29.9% increase in the fleet market, even as private retail demand experienced a 15.8% decline. Fleet purchases now represent over 60% (63.2%) of new car registrations, a significant rise from the previous year’s 52.7%.

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The achievement of over a million BEV registrations since 2002 highlights the automotive industry’s dedication to expanding the availability of zero-emission vehicles. With 20,935 BEVs registered in January alone, a 21% increase from the year before, the total BEV registrations have now surpassed a million, reaching 1,001,677. This growth has increased BEV’s market share to 14.7% for January, although this is slightly lower than the overall performance of 16.5% in 2023. Additionally, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) saw a 31.1% increase in registrations, capturing 8.4% of the market, whereas hybrid (HEV) registrations slightly declined by 1.2%, holding a 13.1% market share.

The SMMT acknowledges anticipated volatility in BEV supply, exacerbated by recent challenges in the UK-EU trade negotiations affecting product allocation and potentially impacting BEV affordability. Despite a 41.7% increase in fleet and business demand for BEVs in January, private buyer registrations fell by 25.1%, a trend that poses a risk to the UK’s net-zero ambitions.

The UK’s unique position of setting a 2035 deadline for ending the sale of non-zero emission vehicles without offering substantial consumer incentives underscores the need for more support for private buyers. With the upcoming Budget announcement, the automotive industry is urging the government to incentivize BEV purchases by proposing a temporary halving of VAT on new BEVs. This measure would not only facilitate a faster transition to electric vehicles but also contribute significantly to reducing CO2 emissions.

Mike Hawes, CEO of SMMT, emphasized the journey of over two decades to achieve the million EV milestone and the potential to replicate this success within a much shorter timeframe with appropriate policies. Highlighting the dependency of market growth on business and fleet purchases, he calls for government action to support private buyers through VAT reductions, thereby accelerating the shift to electric vehicles, promoting economic growth, and advancing towards the net-zero goal. Manufacturers are ready to supply the vehicles; now, the government is asked to make them more accessible to consumers.

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