Latest SMMT data confirms EVs outperformed the market again in January, as new sales figures reveal global EV market is booming

One in five car buyers opted for an electric model in January, helping to push average new car CO2 emissions to a record low, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Overall sales of new cars rose 27.5 per cent year-on-year to just over 115,000, with the performance driven in large part by soaring demand for pure battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Demand for BEVs rose 130 per cent year-on-year, while the PHEV market grew 47 per cent and demand for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) almost doubled.

“Electrified vehicles continue to bolster the growth, with battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) cars accounting for 71.5 per cent of the uplift in registrations,” the SMMT said. “Plug-in vehicles enjoyed another bumper month, with 14,433 BEVs and 9,047 PHEVs registered, equal to some 20.4 per cent of the market. With 13,492 HEVs also registered, almost one in three new cars joining British roads in January was electrified.”

In contrast, demand for diesel vehicles fell 46 per cent year-on-year, while demand for petrol vehicles was up just 15 per cent on January 2021 when lockdown restrictions meant car showrooms were shut.

“Given the lockdown-impacted January 2021, this month’s figures were always going to be an improvement but it is still reassuring to see a strengthening market,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive at the SMMT. “Once again it is electrified vehicles that are driving the growth, despite the ongoing headwinds of chip shortages, rising inflation and the cost-of-living squeeze. 2022 is off to a reasonable start, however, and with around 50 new electrified models due for release this year, customers will have an ever greater choice, which can only be good for our shared environmental ambitions.”

The trade body also released new data showing that the record performance of the EV market last year meant average new car CO2 emissions fell by 11.2 per cent last year, to its lowest ever recorded level of 119.7g/km.

The group also predicted the trend is set to continue, upgrading its sales expectations for EVs for the year with its latest forecasts suggesting registrations of BEVs and PHEVs are set to grow by 61 per cent and 42 per cent respectively in 2022. That would mean that by the end of the year “almost one in four new cars would come with a plug”, the SMMT said.

However, the trade body also reiterated its long-standing warnings that the roll out of EV charging infrastructure needs to keep pace with demand if the market is to continue to grow in the long term. “One of the obstacles remains perceptions of a lack of charging infrastructure, which must be built ahead of demand – and that demand is increasing exponentially,” its said. “Furthermore, as manufacturers strive to bring down the costs of these new technologies, government support through purchase incentives and reduced motoring taxes can help accelerate the take-up so that the road transport sector can meet society’s net zero timeline.”

The rapid growth of the UK EV market is being mirrored globally, according to new data from the database.

According to the website, global EV sales reached 6.75 million units in 2021, a 108 per cent increase on 2020. As such, EVs’ market share almost doubled, rising from 4.2 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

Credit: EV-volumes

“Following the headwinds in 2019 and 2020, global EV sales were back on track in 2021,” EV-volumes said. “For this year we expect EV sales to return to more normal growth and reach around 9.5 million units, higher if remaining issues in supply and logistics are resolved.”

The news comes on the same day as the Transport Select Committee of MPs published a new report calling on the government to urgently respond to surging EV demand by developing plans to address the imminent collapse in tax revenues that will result if the current fuel tax and vehicle excise duty is not reformed.

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