2021 sees massive growth in sales of EVs - nearly one-in-five new cars had a plug

Fri 07 January 2022 View all news

UK sales of electric vehicles broke all previous records in 2021 with almost one-in-five cars sold last year being rechargeable from a plug. According to the latest SMMT figures, UK EV sales exceeded sales in all the previous five years combined. 

Over 190,000 battery electric cars (11.6% of the market) and nearly 115,000 plug-in hybrid cars (7%) were sold last year. 

Easily the biggest seller was the Tesla Model 3 at nearly 35,000 units, making it the second-best selling car of any fuel type over the year.

In a distant second place in the BEV charts was the Kia e-Niro, selling just over 12,000 units, closely followed by VW’s ID3, Nissan’s Leaf and Audi’s e-tron. A newcomer to the scene – the MG ZS EV – sneaked into tenth place, just behind offerings from Hyundai, Mini, Renault and Vauxhall.  

Meanwhile, UK sales of plug-in vans increased by over 140% in the year to nearly 14,000 units, representing 3.9% of sales and, of these, more than 90% were fully battery electric.

Overall UK van sales (below 3.5t) grew by more than a fifth as registrations bounced back from pandemic-hit 2020. Growth was dominated by the larger 2.5-3.5t category, up by nearly 28%. While the van sector is still dominated by diesels (96% market share), battery electric models are now making significant inroads here too.

According to the SMMT, the UK finished 2021 as the third largest European market for new car registrations but the second largest by volume for plug-in vehicles and the second largest for BEVs. The UK is only in ninth position overall, however, in Europe for BEVs by market share, underlining the progress still to be made, despite the UK having among the most ambitious targets of all major markets with the end of sale of conventional new petrol and diesel cars scheduled for 2030.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg NEF forecast that global passenger electric vehicle (EV) sales would top 6.3 million units by the end of 2021, almost double the total from 2020. The estimate is a 13% increase on BNEF’s previous forecast, following much higher-than-expected sales in China in 3Q 2021.

The third quarter of 2021 saw global passenger EV sales rise by 94% year-on-year, to just under 1.7 million units. This was the fourth consecutive quarter in which more than 1 million passenger EVs were sold. Bloomberg reports that China and Europe continued to lead the market, as manufacturers in both regions push to comply with fuel economy regulations.

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