New data from the SMMT shows that demand for plug-in vehicles has increased by nearly 70 per cent year-on-year

Electric vehicle (EV) registrations have continued to soar year-on-year, despite an overall decrease in vehicle registrations compared to pre-pandemic levels.

According to new figures this week from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) vehicle registrations in November 2021 were down 31 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic average. But plug-in models provided the one major bright spot for the market, with registration of battery electric vehicles (BEV) having more than doubled compared to November 2020, while the registration of all electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and hybrids, rose by nearly 70 per cent year-on-year. As such, more than a quarter of the new car market – 26.5 per cent – to date during 2021 has been electrified. One in six of the 1.5 million new car registrations seen this year were for cars capable of being plugged in.

The statistics suggest the car market is only just beginning to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, with car registrations in November representing a modest 1.7 per cent increase on recent months, which still leaves overall demand well down compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The surge in demand for EVs will be welcomed by the government and the growing number of auto companies investing heavily in scaling up production of plug-in models.

However, the SMMT also yesterday raised alarms at the ability of the public charging network to keep pace with rapidly increasing demand.

Only one standard on-street public charger was installed for every 52 new plug-in cars registered over the past year, according to the SMMT. Just 4,100 new public charging points were installed between January and September of this year, compared to over 200,000 new plug-in vehicle registrations.

The SMMT’s statistics back up a report from October that warned the UK could fall short of meeting charging infrastructure demand by 250,000 chargers. Research from the UK100 network of local leaders suggested an estimated 325,000 additional chargers should be installed over the next decade to meet growing demand for EVs. The data shows that at the current installation rate there will be only an additional 76,000 chargers installed by 2032.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, hinted that there was further pent up demand in the market. “What looks like a positive performance belies the underlying weakness of the market,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT. “Demand is there, with a slew of new, increasingly electrified, models launched but the global shortage of semiconductors continues to bedevil production and therefore new car registrations. The industry is working flat out to overcome these issues and fulfil orders, but disruption is likely to last into next year, compounding the need for customers to place orders early.”

The SMMT is also urging the government to implement targets that would boost the installation of public charging infrastructure. Mr Hawes said: “The continued acceleration of electrified vehicle registrations is good for the industry, the consumer and the environment but, with the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution, irrespective of where they live.”

In related news, the Financial Times this week reported that the UK government is considering offering incentives to electric truck manufacturer Rivian to convince the company that its planned new £1bn manufacturing plant should be located at Gravity business park near Bridgewater in Somerset. Ministers are proposing a new M5 motorway exit and training facilities to Rivian to help convince the US company to pick the UK site over competition from Serbia and other European countries, the report states.

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