More than one in nine cars sold in the UK last year were fully electric, with British buyers snapping up more EVs than they had in the previous five years combined.
According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 190,000 full electric vehicles were sold in 2021, a record 11.6% share of the UK market. In total, buyers in Britain bought 1.65 million cars, as the impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing shortage of semi-conductor chips continued to hamper sales.
Battery electric vehicles have enjoyed a huge boost in popularity in recent years, reflecting the increased number of EVs on the market, falling prices, lower running costs and environmental concerns. The UK government is set to ban the sale of most non-zero emission new cars and vans from 2030 onwards.
The popularity of electric cars also grew as the year went on: in December, a record 25.6% of cars sold were battery electric. While that figure in part reflects supply issues due to the chip shortage, it also shows the growing strength of the EV market.
As well as the 190,000 electric cars sold, the British public bought 115,000 plug-in hybrids, taking the total market share for vehicles that can be plugged in to 18.5%. For comparison, petrol engined cars (including mild hybrids) accounted for 58.3% of vehicles sold, diesel vehicles accounted for 14.2% and standard hybrids 8.9%.
However, with electric cars sales surging, there are concerns that the UK charging infrastructure is not keeping pace. SMMT data suggests that there are now 16 plug-in cars for every on-street charger, and the government recently pulled back on some rules requiring builders to install chargers.
SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “The biggest obstacle to our shared net zero ambitions is not product availability, however, but cost and charging infrastructure. Recent cuts to incentives and home charging grants should be reversed and we need to boost the roll out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want.”