UK steps up as Europe’s second largest EV market

UK steps up as Europe’s second largest EV market
The UK has replaced France to become the second largest electric car market in Europe due to a rise in demand for vehicles with zero exhaust emissions.  

Around 31,800 battery electric vehicles were sold in the UK in the first three months of 2021 – 1,300 more than in France – analysis by independent automotive expert Matthias Schmidt shows.  

This follows a hike in electric car sales since the start of 2020, partly because of manufacturers being threatened with fines if they don’t decrease their vehicles’ average carbon dioxide output.  

Battery electrics made up 7.5% of UK sales in the first three months of this year, almost doubling the market share compared to the same period last year, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows.  

Despite the effects of Covid-19, 2020 was the first year European carmakers sold more than 500,000 electric cars.  

This figure is expected to double to 1 million in 2021, though pure electric cars will remain only a tenth of the total European car market by 2024, Matthias Schmidt predicts. 

Germany is still the biggest single market for battery electric cars in Europe, with 64,700 sold in the first quarter. This was made possible partly by the German Government doubling already generous subsidies to protect its auto industry.  

Other contenders include Norway, which in 2020 was the first country in the world where more electric cars were sold than fossil fuel cars, also helped by subsidies.  

In March, the UK Government received criticism for slashing the plug-in car grant from £3,000 to £2,500 and making it available only for EVs costing up to £35,000. 

Mr Schmidt said: “The UK is likely to remain the number two European BEV (battery electric vehicle) market this year, albeit a long way behind market leader Germany, which manufacturers are relying on to meet European-wide targets thanks to the generous incentives on offer there.” 

He also pointed out that manufacturers will have to increase their sales of plug-in cars in the UK further in a ‘make-or-break year’ to comply with new, post-Brexit, emissions limits.  

Although the rules are similar to those in the EU, taking on the challenge alone means carmakers will not be able to balance the UK’s SUV buyers with more environmentally friendly models sold in other countries. 

While there has been evidence of suppliers attempting to push lower-emitting models in the UK, drivers aren’t convinced the UK’s charging infrastructure is up to scratch. 

A YouGov poll commissioned by electric car charger company CTEK found that 78% believe the charging network is not currently adequate, compared with 65% in the other European countries surveyed.

The RAC is leading the way when it comes to supporting drivers in the switch to electric vehicles.

An ever-increasing number of our patrol vans have built-in emergency mobile charging systems capable of giving an out-of-charge electric car enough power to be driven a short distance home or to a working chargepoint, while our All-Wheels-Up recovery system allows our patrols to safely rescue electric cars with no need for a flatbed.

Find out more about the RAC’s electric car breakdown cover.

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