Electric vehicle sales during lockdown give us a glimpse into the future

Further research by Cornwall Insight into data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that despite a 97% drop in vehicle sales and difficult market conditions, there continues to be demand for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).

In fact, 1,374 BEVs were registered during April, accounting for 32% of all new vehicle registrations, outselling diesel cars (1,079) for the first time. BEV registrations as a proportion of new vehicles remained high, 12.0% in May, while June recorded the second highest ever monthly BEV registrations at 8,903 vehicles. These figures give us a glimpse of what BEV sales might look like in a few years.

The most recent data released (July’s figures) shows 8,162 BEVs were registered out of a total 174,887 vehicles. This decreased BEV sales proportion to 4.7% of new cars (Figure 1), highlights a fall to levels seen before lockdown.

A graph showing cumulative electric vehicle sales

Katie Hickford, Analyst at Cornwall Insight, said:

“Resilient demand for BEVs appears to be driven by four key factors. From 6 April, changes to the Benefit in Kind company car tax means zero-emission vehicles pay no tax in 2020-2021, providing an incentive for businesses to transition their fleets. Also, there have been changes to the Plug-in grant in the March 2020 Budget, meaning that hybrid cars with fewer than 70 zero-emission miles are no longer eligible for funding.

“Uptake is further improved by an increased range of vehicle models available, meaning a greater choice for both consumers and businesses. These newer vehicles bring with them an improved vehicle range, making them much more of an attractive proposition to customers.

“Perhaps more importantly, during this COVID-19 period, is that EVs still have longer lead times between ordering and delivery compared to petrol and diesel cars. Although this is starting to improve many vehicles will have been pre-ordered and therefore less impacted by the lockdown.

“The last few months have provided a snapshot of how electric vehicle sales may look in a few years, where the expectation is that BEVs will account for a third of monthly new vehicle registrations. However, whether the government’s EV uptake measures can boost uptake and defy the economic conditions is yet to be seen.”