Number of electric vehicles on UK roads reaches almost 750,000, figures show

The number of electric vehicles on UK roads has reached almost three-quarters of a million after a 71 per cent rise in EV use last year, fresh figures today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show.

The data, captured on behalf of the trade body by Motorparc, shows there are now almost 750,000 EVs on UK roads, including over 720,000 electric cars, almost 27,000 e-vans, nearly 1,000 electric buses and over 300 electrified trucks.

The rate of growth in EV similar survey data commissioned by the SMMT signals last year, and that plug-in vehicles are on course to become numbers common in the UK.

But with the UK set to phase-out fossil fuel car sales from 2030 in order to reach climate targets, the number of EVs on the road still needs to rise significantly over the coming years, said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Britain’s switch to electric vehicles continues to gather pace, with a record one-in-five new car registrations now plug-ins,” he said. “However, they still represent just one in 50 cars on the road, so there is significant ground to cover if we are to fully decarbonise road transport at pace.”

The rising numbers of EVs last year comes despite overall car ownership falling a fraction for the second year in a row in 2021, marking the first time this has happened in more than a century. The figures show overall car ownership went down 0.2 per cent last year.

Even so, the total number of vehicles on UK roads rose modestly last year by 0.4 per cent to 40.5 million, according to SMMT.

That is partly because better technology and pandemic-related market disruptions are also pushing Britons to hold on to vehicles for longer, as the average car lifespan has reached a new high of 8.7 years old – more than a year older than a decade ago, the data suggests. It means just under a quarter of vehicles on the road today are more than 13 years old.

While SMMT said the longer lifespan of modern vehicles was, in part, thanks to more advanced technology and the greater reliability of new vehicles, the main driver has been pandemic-related market issues, it said. Global shortages of key components – most notably semiconductors – have constrained the new car market and the lockdowns of the past two years closed dealerships meaning consumers were less able to buy new cars, instead of holding on to their vehicles.

“The first consecutive annual fall in vehicle numbers in more than a century shows how significantly the pandemic has impacted the industry, leading Britons to hold onto their cars for longer,” Hawes added. “With fleet renewal essential to net zero, we must build consumer confidence in the economy and, for drivers, confidence in the infrastructure to get the transition into top gear.”


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