UK electric vehicle sales overtake plug-in hybrids for the first time

Oct 14, 2021

The number of pure battery electric vehicles (BEV) on UK roads has overtaken plug-in hybrids for the first time, latest figures show.

And the recent issues with fuel delivery as a result of driver shortages has prompted three-in-10 drivers to consider the switch to an EV (electric vehicle).

The RAC’s findings come from analysis of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) data and its own survey of more than 2,400 drivers.

Following the highest ever single month of new BEV registrations in September – an extra 32,721 were sold, despite overall car sales figures being down significantly on recent years – the RAC estimates there are now 332,299 on the roads, compared to 327,183 plug-in hybrids. BEVs now represent 50.4% of all plug-in cars on the UK’s roads since 2010, up from 46.3% at the same time last year.

It predicts that by the end of this year, the total number of BEVs will likely hit a new record of at least 175,000. It suggests the number could have significantly higher had vehicle production not been affected by the global semiconductor and component shortage.

Average monthly sales of new diesel cars have fallen from 48,481 in 2019 to 21,814 in 2020 and just 13,067 so far this year. Petrol sales have also declined significantly, from an average of 123,534 a month in 2019 to 75,265 in 2020 and 69,066 so far in 2021.

The RAC says its findings could suggest that drivers looking to move away from petrol and diesel models are leapfrogging PHEVs in favour of BEVs.

The research also found that nearly three-in-10 (28%) of 2,419 drivers surveyed said that their interest in getting an electric car next time they change their vehicle had increased as a result of the recent fuel delivery crisi, with 43% of this group saying they expect to make the switch within the next three years.

RAC director of EVs Sarah Winward-Kotecha said: “These figures show there’s clear momentum when it comes to electric car adoption in the UK, but had it not been for the chip shortage which is hampering new car production, the numbers may well have been even higher.

“What’s also interesting is that demand for BEVs appears to out-stripping PHEVs, with the latter often cited as a good ‘stepping stone’ between a petrol and diesel model and a full zero-emission battery model. Only time will tell whether it’s the case that drivers and fleets looking to upgrade their cars are choosing to leapfrog PHEVs and instead opt straight for BEVs.”