Electric vehicle sales soar despite dramatic drop in new car registrations

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The impact of the coronavirus has seen a sharp drop in the total number of new passenger car sales in Britain, however there is some good news to come out of the gloom as the sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and mild hybrids (MHEVs) have all boomed in March.

A report released from the SMMT (Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders) showed year-on-year figures of new passenger car registrations with the numbers for diesel and petrol cars plummeting. Diesel has seen the biggest drop with 44,796 sold, a 61.9% reduction when compared from March 2019 to March 2020. Petrol vehicles, which account for the UK’s largest market share at 60%, follows with sales down from 305,163 to 153,025, which is a 49.9% drop.

In light of this however, positive news comes from the electric vehicle segment with the sales of mild hybrid diesels rising the most among all powertrains with a 241% rise. BEVs follow with an impressive rise of 197%, with their sales almost tripling year-on-year from 3,932 to 11,694. Plug-in hybrids are also on the up with sales seeing a 38% increase.

While the mild hybrids and BEVs still only account for around 4% of the market share each, their sales are going in the right direction for EV manufacturers.

There are a number of reasons why we are seeing a dramatic increase in sales numbers. Firstly, the UK government announced earlier this year that it will be bringing the ban of new petrol and diesel vehicles forward by five years from 2040 to 2035. The effect of this news could result in consumers already looking for alternative energy powertrains. There is also the increasing fleet emissions targets and regulations to keep up with, which has seen a greater number of electric and hybrid powertrain options introduced to manufacturer’s line-ups. New tax incentives for purchasing EVs, which came into effect on April 1 could also been a reason for the significant jump in sales. Finally, the surge of BEV sales could be because of Tesla’s Model 3. SMMT also released a list of the best selling cars for March and at number nine is a model listed as “other”, which is believed to be the Model 3. Tesla doesn’t list regional sales figures but it is known that the company registered a similar figure of registrations for the Model 3 that month.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “With the country locked down in crisis mode for a large part of March, this decline will come as no surprise. Despite this being the lowest March since we moved to the bi-annual plate change system, it could have been worse had the significant advanced orders placed for the new 20 plate not been delivered in the early part of the month. We should not, however, draw long term conclusions from these figures other than this being a stark realization of what happens when economies grind to a halt.

“How long the market remains stalled is uncertain, but it will reopen and the products will be there. In the meantime, we will continue to work with government to do all we can to ensure the thousands of people employed in this sector are ready for work and Britain gets back on the move.”

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