Increased demand for electric vehicles although market share remains low

The number of plug-in cars on UK roads has risen from 2,500 four years ago to around 105,000 by the middle of this year, following a surge in demand for electric vehicles. At the same time, the number of plug-in vans has reached around 4,500, according to the latest figures*.

Manufacturers have reacted to growing demand and have increased the number of pure-electric and plug-in hybrid models available in the UK, with many of the top manufacturers now offering an EV as part of their model range.

By the end of this month, it is expected that there should be around 55 plug-in models available in the market for new car buyers to choose from.

The pace of the increase in demand has been rapid. Over the last 12 months, there has been an average of more than 3,300 new electric car registrations per month, compared with only 500 per month during the first half of 2014.

And the first six months of this year have seen more than 22,000 electric cars registered, some 15% ahead of the same period in 2016. Last year witnessed the highest number of plug-in cars ever registered at around 35,000, but this year looks well set to comfortably beat that figure.

However, the percentage share of the new car market remains very low. Electric cars represent only 1.5 % of the total new car market in the UK, although the figure for the first six months of 2017 has risen slightly to 1.6%.

In terms of the most popular models amongst new car buyers, including company user choosers, at the end of March this year the latest figures available from the Department for Transport show that Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the number one plug-in vehicle by some margin.

With more than 27,500 units sold, it has been the best-selling plug-in car for more than two years now and is clearly ahead of the second most popular plug-in car, the Nissan Leaf.

More than 16,500 Leafs have been sold in the UK, comfortably ahead of the Mercedes-Benz C 350e which has rapidly climbed into third place, and putting the Nissan in first position in terms of pure-electric vehicles.

The Mercedes-Benz C350e has racked up sales in the space of 18 months of almost 7,000 units, and pushed the BMW i3 down to fourth place in the best-sellers table. The i3 is ahead of the fifth-placed Renault Zoe, which had more than 5,200 total sales by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

Rounding out the top 10 were Tesla’s Model S, the BMW 330e, Volkswagen’s Golf GTE, the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine and the Nissan e-NV200 in that order.

Plug-in hybrids have rapidly taken the majority share of the electric car market – currently sitting at 64%.

From accounting for less than a third of plug-in sales at the beginning of 2014, two years later they represent almost two thirds the overall number of plug-in cars sold by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

A key indicator of the strength of the UK market for electric vehicles is the number of areas of the market now covered by electric models. While the main  electric cars available five years or so ago covered four main body styles – city cars, small family cars, small vans and sports coupés – the 55 plug-in cars and vans available in 2017 now include superminis, large family cars, hatchbacks, estates, SUVs, executive models, and medium-sized vans.

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.


*Figures from the