Electric car sales up 21% in January as EV total tops a million

Tristan Young

5 Feb 2024

New electric car registrations in January were up 21% on the same month last year, according to official data, helping to push the total number of EVs on British roads past the 1 million mark.

Figures from the SMMT show that electric cars took 14.7% of the new car market in the first month of 2024. The same time last year, this figure was at 13.1%. However, the market share for electric cars for the whole of 2023 was 16.5%.

Overall the new car market finished up 8.2% thanks to significant gains in the fleet sector (up 30%) which includes daily rental. Private new car registrations were down more than 15% for the month.

As the first month of the year, January is often prone to anomalies. Elecrifying.com sources said that with a few days to go before the end of January the market was running fractionally down on 2023’s figure. If this is correct, it would suggest car makers pushed vehicles into the market at the end of the month.

Speaking off the record, one car manufacturer told Electrifying.com they expected January’s battery electric car volume to be better because other brands were thought to have been delaying registering electric cars in December in order to get a boost in 2024 when strict new zero emission vehicle (ZEV) targets came in.

These ZEV targets require all car makers to meet a 22% electric vehicle mix this year, although there are complex off-set rules that mean plug-in cars and very low emission ICE cars will help lower that 22%. Failure to reach the target will result in a £15,000 fine for every car that falls short.

Electrifying.com sources within dealer groups have said that while fleet sales are predominantly of pure electric cars or plug-in hybrids, private retail new EV sales are proving difficult particularly due to the higher price over the equivalent petrol car and broader confusion around charging and range of electric cars.

Fleet and business demand for BEVs grew by 41.7% in January, registrations by private buyers fell by 25.1%. This has led to calls from the industry for the government to provide incentives to private buyers, with the SMMT calling for a cut in VAT. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “It’s taken just over 20 years to reach our million EV milestone – but with the right policies, we can double down on that success in just another two. Market growth is currently dependent on businesses and fleets. Government must therefore use the upcoming Budget to support private EV buyers, temporarily halving VAT to cut carbon, drive economic growth and help everyone make the switch. Manufacturers have been asked to supply the vehicles, we now ask government to help consumers buy the vehicles on which net zero depends.”

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