The rise of electric and hybrid cars

A seismic shift is taking place in Britain’s new car market. More and more drivers are turning away from diesel cars and towards electric vehicles and hybrids.

As the graph below shows, diesels account for a much smaller share of new car registrations now than they did just a few years ago.

A shift in the market

That shift began in 2015 – right around the time of the Volkswagen emissions scandal – but has accelerated sharply in the last year. From 2011 to 2014, diesels accounted for half of all new cars registered in the UK. As the graph shows, that proportion dropped slightly (to 48%) in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, it fell more significantly, to 42%. And, in 2018 so far, diesels have made up just 33% of the new car market.

The raw numbers are even more dramatic. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ latest figures, shown in the graph below, 909,700 new diesel cars were registered in the 12 months to May. That’s less than three quarters of the number registered in the previous 12 months (1,236,202), and the smallest 12-month total since the period ending June 2010.

Part of the gap left by diesel’s decline has been filled by petrol cars, registrations of which are up 5.3% year-on-year and 29% since 2013. However, drivers are increasingly shunning both petrol and diesel in favour of new alternatively-fuelled vehicles – especially electric and hybrid cars.

129,182 alternatively-fuelled cars were registered in the 12 months to May. That’s 30% more than in the previous 12 months, and an incredible 295% more than in 2013.

As our third graph shows, most alternatively-fuelled cars are traditional hybrids like the Toyota Prius. 76,691 of these were registered in the last 12 months, up 29% year-on-year and 163% since 2013.

Moving to Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles

The fastest-growing type of car, though, is the plug-in hybrid. 39,159 were registered in the 12 months to May – a 39% increase on the previous year and a whopping 3,546% increase on the 1,074 plug-in hybrids that were registered in 2013.

As for zero-emission pure electric cars, their rise has slowed somewhat in recent years. Registrations doubled in 2013 and more than doubled again in 2014. Over the last three years, by contrast, they have grown at a rate of just 16% a year.

13,291 battery electric cars were registered in the last 12 months, up 8.7% on the previous year. So, they are still gaining in popularity, but much more slowly than in the past and nothing like as quickly as plug-in hybrids.

Altogether, 5.3% of new car registrations in 2018 so far have been alternatively-fuelled, up from 4.7% in 2017 and just 1.4% back in 2013. With new and improved models coming onto the market all the time – and a raft of government policies designed to incentivise their uptake – which proportion will only grow in the years to come.