Electric car market statistics

EV market stats

The electric car market is growing quickly, with more than 273,000 models on UK roads at the end of February 2020. The most recent set of figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that plug-in models made up 5.7% of total UK new car registrations, with pure-electric models accounding for 3.2% of that figure – more than 2,500 in total.

The first few months of 2020 have been extremely positive, with registrations for the first two months of the year up 135% compared to 2019. In even better news, registrations of pure-EVs are up 218% for the same period.

It's an encouraging trend that looks to see 2020 continuing positive sales found in 2019. More than 72,700 electric cars were sold last year, comfortably beating 2018's total of 59,700. Average market share also rosen to 3.2% of total registrations, though this too is increasing rapidly. For 2020 to date, EVs currently make up 5.9% of all new cars sold.

The EV market share has shifted significantly upwards in the past half a year or so. In August 2019, the market share set a new record at 4.4%, before dropping to what was then a still healthy 3.8% in September - a traditional strong month for the car industry all round because of the new numberplate. October increased back to 4.4%, and since then, the share hasn't dropped below 5.7%, reaching as high as 6.3%.

With increased supply of electric and plug-in hybrid cars, plus new models being launched with increasing regularity, the increasing trends are only going to accelerate over the course of the next few months.

The following sections present UK sales of electric cars and vans since 2010, and the total number of EVs registered in the UK. Also charted are the number of models currently available as well as the number of publicly available charging points according to the Zap-Map database.

Note: The terms 'electric cars' and electric vehicles' on this page refers to cars and vans that are zero-emission capable by running on electric power only for a reasonable range. This includes pure-electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs). With the exception of the tiny number of FCEVs on the road, this essentially comprises any vehicle that is able to be recharged via a plug, and excludes conventional hybrids.

Third party use: this data can be used by third parties as long as the Next Green Car logo is displayed, the source is attributed to Next Green Car and if online, a link is added back to www.nextgreencar.com

How many electric vehicles have been sold in the UK?

SMMT figures are showing a strong start to 2020 for the electric car market, with huge increases in registrations compared to the previous year for both January and February. The year's to date has seen more than 13,400 electric vehicles sold, of which almost half are pure-electric.

EV registrations

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, March 2020.

Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) each month show that electric car sales in the UK have risen dramatically over the past few years. While only around 500 electric cars were registered per month during the first half of 2014, this has increased to an average of more than 6,700 per month for 2020.

Pure-EV registrations

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, March 2020.

What is different about recent figures is the strength of the pure-electric car market. Where PHEVs have on average made up at least two-thirds of all plug-in cars sold since 2015 - and sometimes as much as three-quarters - since March 2019, that position has switched to EVs being the dominant powertrain type.

EV registrations by year

Source: SMMT, OLEV, DfT Statistics; Analysis: Next Green Car, January 2019.

What are the UK's most popular EV models?

The latest Department for Transport figures available show that Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV is the most popular plug-in vehicle as of the end of September 2019, and by some margin. With more than 43,600 units sold, it has been the best-selling plug-in car for more than four years, and is considerably ahead of the second most popular plug-in car, the Nissan Leaf.

More than 26,700 Leafs have been sold in the UK though, making it the best-selling pure-EV in the UK, and still comfortably ahead of the quick-selling BMW i3. Regular updates to the i3's range has seen the BMW consistently record high sales, now sitting at more than 15,000 to the end of Q3 2019.

Nissan LEAF most popular EV in UK

Source: DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics. Analysis Next Green Car, December 2019.

Joining the i3 towards the top of the table is the BMW 330e with more than 14,000 sales to date. Completing a BMW triumvirate is the 530e in fifth place with a little over 10,900 sales.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Mercedes Benz C 350e, Renault's Zoe, Tesla's Model S, the Volkswagen Golf GTE, and Mini Countryman Cooper S E.

This established order is sure to be shaken up come the publication of 2019's figures. This is because the Tesla Model 3 now sits at 11th in the table, despite having had no cars on UK roads in Q1 2019 - and only 170 registered in Q2. The rapid rise of the most-affordable Tesla will surely see it enter the top 10 list next time around, and quite possibly the top 5 best-selling EVs come the end of 2019.

UK's best-selling EVs Q3 2019

Source: DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics. Analysis Next Green Car, December 2019.

A key indicator as to the strength of the UK market for electric vehicles is the number of segments covered by the electric models currently available. While the main nine electric cars available in 2011 covered four body styles - city cars, small family cars, small vans and sports coupés - the more than 125 plug-in cars and vans available in 2019 now include superminis, large family cars, hatchbacks, estates, SUVs, executive models, and medium-sized vans.

UK's best-selling EVs 2019

Source: DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics. Analysis Next Green Car, December 2019.

Previous experience of introducing new technologies into the automotive market shows that having a broad range of both models and body styles is key to ensuring strong uptake of new power-trains. With the large number of brands and classes now available, the EV market has a strong base on which to continue to grow.

How many EV charging points are there in the UK?

As a result of sustained government and private investment, the UK network of EV charging points has increased from a few hundred in 2011 to more than 10,500 charging locations, 17,900 charging devices and 31,100 connectors by March 2020. The proportion of charger types has also changed dramatically during that time with an increase in high power (rapid) units being installed across the UK.

There are three main EV charger types: 'slow' charging units (up to 3kW) which are best suited for 6-8 hours overnight; 'fast' chargers (7-22kW) which can fully recharge some models in 3-4 hours; and 'rapid' charging units (43kW+) which are able to provide an 80% charge in around 30 minutes.

Rapid chargers come in two charge point types – AC and DC – depending on whether they use alternating current or direct current. In 2019, there became a need to differentiate between different speeds of rapid points as ultra-rapid chargers have come online. These are capable of providing at least 100 kW of power for charging, where those EVs are able to accept such a high charge. Ultra-rapid charge points tend to be 100 kW, 150 kW, or 350 kW.

Charging connectors by type - UK 2020

Source: Zap-Map Statistics

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:20th Mar 2020

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