Record year of sales for low emission vehicles in 2019

Despite a huge increase in demand for battery electric vehicles, their market share is still small at 1.6%

Sales of alternatively fuelled cars such as electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids surged in 2019, according to latest figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed low emission cars took a record 7.4% market share last year, with hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) continuing to dominate the sector with a 17.1% increase to 97,850 units.

Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) saw the biggest percentage growth, with a 144% rise to 37,850 units, overtaking plug-in hybrids for the first time.

Despite the huge increase in demand for BEVs, the SMMT says their 1.6% market share is still small and underlines the progress needed to reach the 50% – 70% share the government hopes to achieve over the next decade.

It adds the significant decline of zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids – down 17.8% – is further evidence of the consequences of “prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready”.

Data from SMMT also reveals the overall market for new cars in the UK fell by 2.4% in 2019 but new car fleet average CO2 rose for a third successive year, by 2.7% to 127.9g/km.

While huge investments are being made by manufacturers into advanced powertrains, lightweight materials and aerodynamics to make cars more efficient, the organisation adds this could not offset the overall rise which was primarily due to the effect of the more stringent world harmonised light-duty vehicles test procedure (WLTP) of new models.

New EU rules are also being phased in this year which requires manufactures to cut the average CO2 emissions of their new car fleets dramatically or face fines.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said: “A stalling market will hinder industry’s ability to meet stringent new CO2 targets and importantly, undermine wider environmental goals.

“We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift. Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable.”

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