Surge in EV adoption, as UK new car sales deliver their best year since the pandemic

Data on new car registrations has revealed that the UK auto market had its best year since 2019, with almost 2 million new vehicles sold. In addition, BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) achieved just over 314,000 registrations, a higher volume than 2020 and 2021 sales combined.
February 15, 2024

Best year for new car sales since the covid-19 pandemic

New data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows a marked jump in annual new car sales. Its findings suggest that the UK’s new car market had the strongest year since 2019, with 1.9 million vehicles sold in 2023, up 17.9% year on year. The report states that a major contributor to this uptick was the investment by companies in new electric fleet vehicles, as supply issues seen in the previous year eased. In a further announcement by SMMT it has been reported that UK used car transactions also grew- up by 5.1% in 2023, with 7.2 million cars changing hands last year[i].

Drivers heavily invest in zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs)

Within the 2023 UK sales figures is a marked jump in the volume of so-termed zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs), as well as low-emissions vehicles such as plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). This change resulted in an estimated 2.2% reduction in the average CO2 emissions of new cars in the UK, down to 108.9 g/km. PHEVs were up by almost 40%, accounting for 7.4% of new car registrations, whilst hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) were up by 27.1% to make up 12.6% of sales.

Source: SMMT

Fleet investment fuels growth in BEV sales

Fully electric BEV vehicles accounted for 16.5% of sales, up by 17.8% year on year, with SMMT noting that this was driven by business and fleet purchasers attracted by tax incentives. However, for private buyers BEVS represented only one in every eleven new cars sold, compared to one in six for business purchases. This suggests a discrepancy between the two, and highlights the opportunity for BEV purchase incentives for consumers, something which industry is calling for, with SMMT suggesting the UK government halve VAT on new BEVs. They argue that this would hand UK consumers an estimated extra £7.7 billion in BEV buying power, encourage an extra 270,000 new car buyers to switch to an EV, and put 1.9 million new electric cars on Britain's roads by the end of 2026[ii].

SMMT’s chief executive Mike Hawes said:

“With vehicle supply challenges fading, the new car market is building back with the best year since the pandemic. Energised by fleet investment, particularly in the latest EVs, the challenge for 2024 is to deliver a green recovery. Government has challenged the UK automotive sector with the world’s boldest transition timeline and is investing to ensure we are a major maker of electric vehicles. It must now help all drivers buy into this future, with consumer incentives that will make the UK the leading European market for ZEVs”[iii]

New ZCA research set to provide a deep dive into the world of EVs

Our upcoming research into electric vehicles and charging infrastructure will provide an in-depth analysis of this rapidly expanding industry, offering 5-year forecasts across 70+ key markets for both EVs themselves and the associated charging infrastructure. The research will also analyse the technology, opportunities, and constraints, as well as county-level trends and policies. Further, the report will introduce our new ‘leaderboard’ product, which scores and analyses key players within the EV space, alongside a company profile of each vendor.

Register your interest using the form at the bottom of this page.


[i] Used car market up as EV sales reach record levels - SMMT

[ii] Government urged to halve VAT on new electric cars |

[iii] New car market delivers best year since 2019 as fleets fuel growth - SMMT

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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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