EV sales to outstrip diesel by next year, predicts industry body

SMMT predicts continued surge in plug-in vehicles as annual registrations outstrip previous decade

Sales of electric vehicles will exceed sales of new diesels by the end of 2022, according to the body which represents car makers and traders.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicts that pure EV registrations will oustrip diesels as sales of plug-in vehicles soar.

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According to its forecasts, more new plug-in vehicles will be registered by the end of 2021 than in the whole of the previous decade, and battery electric vehicls (BEVs) alone will overtake new diesel and mild hybrid models within the next year.

The uptake of pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids has been the only positive trend in the new car market this year and the UK’s automotive trade body now expects total registrations to reach more than a quarter of a million by the end of the year.

(Graphic: SMMT)

Compared with 2020, new EV and PHEV registrations were up 73% and 7.5% respectively in October.

The SMMT forecasts that a total of 287,000 plug-in vehicles will be registered by the end of the year, exceeding the 271,962 registered between 2010 and 2019.

That would mean one in every six new cars has zero-emissions capability.

In contrast, diesel registrations have been falling steadily since the VW Dieselgate scandal and were down 66% in October. Ten years ago diesel accounted for 50% of new car registrations. Now it is 6.6%.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said that the rapid expansion in the range of plug-in vehicles along with incentives for business and private buyers had helped the growth of the plug-in market but warned that incentives such as the current plug-in car grant were needed to sustain the rate of growth.

He commented: “As Britain hosts COP26 and seeks to align the world in committing to achieving net zero, our latest outlook shows the UK experiencing a surge in plug-in vehicle uptake.

“Massive investment by industry as well as long standing government incentives have seen us go from just 188 new plug-in cars in 2010, to almost 300,000 in 2021.

“To achieve net zero by the desired date, however, uptake rates must continue to grow. This requires ongoing incentives to help consumers make the switch and significant investment in public charging infrastructure.”

The RAC’s EV spokesman, Simon Williams said: “After another strong month of sales of new battery electric vehicles we are now rapidly approaching 350,000 total EV registrations since 2010.

“In stark contrast to the accelerating growth of EVs, registrations of diesel cars are sliding ever lower from their 2016 high of 1.28m and are heading to what looks like a modern-day low of under 150,000 by the end of the year, and this will only be exacerbated in 2022 with plug-ins predicted to account for a fifth of new car sales.”