EVs continue growth as 2017's total is passed in October

The UK's plug-in car market continues to buck the market trend, with growth of 32% reported for October's registrations by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) against an industry total of -3%.

The relatively strong electric vehicle performance means that plug-in models made up 3.1% of total registrations in October, the second highest market split ever, behind only August 2018's 4.2%.

Pure-EVs saw growth of 87% compared to October 2017, with 1,256 units registered during the month, while PHEV registrations increased 19%, made up of 3,448 registrations.

SMMT registrations EV October 2018

As such, despite the improved performance from pure-electric models, PHEVs still made up more than 73% of plug-in vehicle sales in October - though that's less than last year's 81% split, and a little behind 2018's average of 75%.

October's figures mean that 2018's electric vehicle sales have now surpassed last year's figure, with 49,802 EVs registered in 2018 to the end of last month. In comparison, the 2017 finished with 47,402 EVs sold.

Although the UK car market as a whole is clearly struggling with uncertainty over elements such as Brexit, fuel prices, and future policy on emissions, it is yet to be seen what effect the newly revised Plug-in Car Grant rates had on electric vehicle registrations in October.

Having changed halfway through the month, PHEV support was removed - increasing OTR prives by £2,500 - while the pure-electric grant was reduced by £1,000, seeing new pure-EVs now receive £3,500 off the cost of a new model.

Figures for grant-eligible models have not yet been revealed, though even when they are, we will not know at what date the registrations were made - pre- or post-changes.

As such, next month's registration figures - the first complete month under the new grants - will be interesting to see whether pure-EVs continue to pick up compared to PHEV sales. Equally, the impact of removing the grant from PHEVs will be clearer to see whether the market is robust enough to continue growing.

Plug-in models have contributed significantly to Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) registration growth, though conventional hybrids - the other main fuel type counted - remain the leaders in this segment. Almost 5,900 hybrids were registered in October, representing growth of 3.8%.

SMMT EV table

Table courtesy of SMMT

To put the performances into perspective, the registrations of new diesel models in the UK continue to slump, with October's total of more than 49,000 sales down more than 21% on 2017's figure - a month where diesel's decline was already well established. October was the 19th consecutive month where diesel sales have dropped.

Petrol continues to pick up some of diesel's units, along with AFVs, and saw growth of 7% compared to last year. The performance of petrol, hybrid, and electric vehicles is not enough to reverse the drop in consumer confidence in diesel, with the total market -2.9% for October 2018, and -7.2% for the year to date.

Looking at the rest of 2018's sales to date, petrol registrations have increased 9.2% compared to 2017, while AFVs have seen growth of 22% - both off-set by diesel's -31% for the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: "VED upheaval, regulatory changes and confusion over diesel have all made their mark on the market this year so it's good to see plug-in registrations buck the trend. Demand is still far from the levels needed to offset losses elsewhere, however, and is making government's decision to remove purchase incentives even more baffling.

"We've always said that world-class ambitions require world-class incentives and, even before the cuts to the grant, those ambitions were challenging. We need policies that encourage rather than confuse. Government's forthcoming review of WLTP's impact on taxation must ensure that buyers of the latest, cleanest cars are not unfairly penalised else we will see older, more polluting cars remain on the road for longer."

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Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:5th Nov 2018

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