Plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom

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Registration of plug-in electric vehicles in the UK between January 2011 and December 2016.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

The adoption of plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom is actively supported by the British government through the plug-in car and van grants schemes and other incentives.[7] More than 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the UK up until March 2017, making the British plug-in fleet the fourth largest in Europe.[8][9] The stock of plug-ins includes about 4,500 plug-in commercial vans. These figures includes a significant number of registered plug-in electric cars and vans which were not eligible for the grant schemes.[10] The UK ranked in 2016 as the second best selling European market after Norway with almost 37,000 plug-in cars registered.[11]

The British market experienced a surge of plug-in car sales during 2014, as total registrations quadruple from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,518 units in 2014.[4][12][13] The plug-in electric car segment captured a 0.59% market share of new car sales in 2014, over three times and a half the market share of 2013 (0.16%).[4][14] The surge in demand for plug-in cars continued during 2015, with registrations totaling 28,188 units, up 94.0% from 2014.[5] The market share of the plug-in electric car segment rose to almost 1.1% of new car sales in 2015, up from 0.59% in 2014.[4][15] With 36,907 plug-in electric cars registered in 2016, the plug-in segment market share achieved a record of 1.37% of total UK new car registrations in 2016.[6] Plug-in car sales in March 2017 achieved the best monthly plug-in registration volume on record ever with over 8,000 units,[9][16] and registrations during the firs quarter of 2017 achieved a record 1.47% market share of new car sales during this quarter.[9]

The Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV is the all-time top selling plug-in car in the UK with 26,600 units registered through December 2016, accounting for about 50% of all plug-in hybrid sold in the UK since 2010.[17][18] The Nissan Leaf ranks second and it is also the all-time top selling all-electric car with 15,000 units sold by September 2016.[19] Ranking third is the BMW i3 with 4,457 units, followed by the Renault Zoe with 4,339 units, both, registered at the end of June 2016.[20]

The Plug-in Car Grant (PICG) programme started on 1 January 2011 and is available across the UK. The programme initially reduced the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25% grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars capped at GB£5,000.[21][22] The programme was extended in February 2012 to include plug-in vans. Van buyers can receive 20% - up to GB£8,000 - off the cost of a plug-in van.[23] As plug-in car sales surged during 2014 and 2015, the PICG was extended until March 2018. The maximum grant was reduced to GB£4,500, and the amount granted varies according to emission levels. The eligible ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) must meet criteria in one of three categories depending on emission levels (CO2 emissions bands between 50 and 75g/km) and zero-emission-capable mileage (minimum of 10 mi (16 km)). Hydrogen fuel cell cars are now eligible for the grant. A price cap is in place for the extension for Category 2 and 3 models with a list price of more than GB£60,000, which are no longer eligible for the grant.[24][25] As of March 2017, a total of 94,541 eligible cars have been registered since the launch of the Plug-in Car Grant in 2011,[9] and, as of December 2016, the number of claims made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme totaled 2,938 units since the launch of the programme in 2012.[26] The Plug-In Van Grant scheme was extended in October 2016 to make electric trucks above 3.5 tonnes eligible for grants of up to GB£20,000[27] As of 10 January 2017, the UK had 11,837 public charging points at 4,237 locations, of which 2,173 were rapid charging points at 695 locations.[28]

Government support[edit]

Speaking at the G8 summit in 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans for Britain to be at the forefront of a "green car revolution". Mr Brown suggested that by 2020 all new cars sold in Britain could be electric or hybrid vehicles producing less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre (5.7 oz(CO2)/mi).[29] In preparation for the introduction of mass-produced electric vehicles to Britain's roads, trials of electric cars took place from 2009, with further trials in cities across the UK from 2010. Local councils were invited to submit bids to become Britain's first "green cities". One example is Glasgow, where a Scottish consortium has been awarded more than GB£1.8 million to run a pilot electric car scheme from 2009 to 2011.[30]

A Mitsubishi i-MiEV part of London Streets fleet.

London mayor Boris Johnson also announced plans in April 2009 to deliver 25,000 electric car-charging places across the capital by 2015, in order to make London the "electric car capital of Europe". His target is to get 100,000 electric vehicles on to London's streets. Mr Johnson has also pledged to convert at least 1,000 Greater London Authority fleet vehicles to electric by 2015.[30][31] Transport for London also announced that all new taxis must be zero emissions capable by 2018.[32] As of June 2014, there were about 3,000 plug-in electric vehicles in London, 3% of the mayor's goal, up from 1,700 electric cars in January 2009. The city also has only 1,408 charging points in operation, of which, only 57% were used in the first quarter of 2014.[32] As of October 2015, Greater London postcode areas contain 8,000 electric vehicles according to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).[33]

Nissan's Sunderland plant — the largest car factory in the UK — was granted a GB£20.7 million grant from the British government and up to GB£220 million from the European Investment Bank.[34][35][36] Production of the Nissan Leaf at the Sunderland plant began in March 2013.[37] The plant has the capacity to produce 60,000 lithium-ion batteries and 50,000 Leafs a year.[34] The UK produced Leaf are sold only in Europe has an improved driving range, lower price and a more European design.[38] The price of the 2013 Leaf produced in Sunderland is lower than the model built in Japan,[39][40] and Nissan is offering a battery leasing option for the three trims produced at Sunderland, which further reduced the purchase price by GB£5,000.[41][42]

Public charging point in Arbroath Harbour, Scotland.

As of November 2013, the UK government had pledged GB£400 million to support the deployment of plug-in vehicles in the five years between March 2010 and March 2015. However, as of 30 September 2013, only GB£92 million had been spent and an additional of GB£44 million had been committed for projects up to March 2015, of which, GB£82 million were allocated for research and development; GB£16 million on infrastructure such as public charging points; and GB£25 million in consumer purchase incentives (Plug-in Car Grant). As of November 2013, the UK has around 5,000 public charging points, of which, only 200 are quick chargers.[7] By April 2014 the UK was the leader in quick charging deployment in Europe, with 211 CHAdeMO charging stations available across the country.[43]

As a result of lower than initially expected electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales, in January 2014 the UK government launched the "Go Ultra Low" national campaign in partnership with five of the largest manufacturers of plug-in electric vehicles, BMW, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Vauxhall. The campaign has a cost of GB£2.5 million and its objective is to promote the benefits of electric and plug-in hybrid cars to buyers. The Government classifies any car emitting less than 75g/km of CO2 as ultra-low emission. The British government also announced its commitment to invest GB£9 million to install more rapid charge-points to make motorway journeys by electric car feasible. According to Nicholas Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, “Our clear objective is to move the car fleet in this country to ultra low-emission vehicles by 2040 and to put money and policy money behind it."[44]

In July 2014 Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport, announced that all of the government’s fleets will be supplied with funding to introduce electric vehicles. The "Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Readiness Project", funded with GB£5 million, is the first step towards making all government vehicles electrically powered. Central government fleets will benefit first, with plans to bring in over 150 plug-in cars and vans. The Government Car Service, which presently has 85 vehicles used by ministers, will be the initial target with electric cars expected to be in operation by the third quarter 2014. A second phase is scheduled next to provide funds for the public sector in general to purchase more electric vehicles. Beneficiary agencies includes the National Health Service, councils and police forces.[45]

Purchase incentives[edit]

In January 2009, transport secretary Geoff Hoon said the British government would make GB£250 million (~US$375 million) available for consumer incentives to bring electric cars to market in the UK.[31] The plug-in grant scheme was first announced in January 2009 by the Labour Government. The coalition government, led by David Cameron, took office in May 2010 and confirmed their support of the grant on 28 July 2010. This confirmed that GB£43 million would be available for the first 15 months of the scheme, with the 2011 Spending Review confirming funding for the programme for the lifetime of the Parliament of around GB£300 million (~US$450 million).[46][47][48]

Two subsidy programs were implemented, the Plug-in Car Grant, from January 2011, and the Plug-In Van Grant, from February 2012. Both offer buyers of eligible vehicles a purchase subsidy discounted at the point of purchase. As of March 2017, the number of eligible registered plug-in electric cars that have benefited with the subsidy totaled 94,541 units since the launch of the programme in 2011.[9] As of December 2016, the number of claims made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme totaled 2,938 units since the launch of the programme in 2012.[26] As of December 2014, there were 1,467 electric cars and vans registered which were not eligible for the Plug-in Grant scheme.[13]

Plug-in car Grant[edit]

The Plug-in Car Grant programme started on 1 January 2011 and is available across the UK The programme reduces the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25% grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars capped at GB£5,000 (US$7,450).[21][22] From 1 April 2015, the purchase price cap was raised to cover up to 35% discount of the vehicle’s recommended retail price, up to the already existing GB£5,000 limit. This change means electric cars priced under GB£20,000, such as the Renault Zoe, are able to take advantage of most or all of the £5,000 discount.[49] Both private and business fleet buyers are eligible for this grant which is received at the point of purchase.[21]

The Vauxhall Ampera plug-in hybrid is eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant scheme.

The subsidy programme is managed in a similar way to the grant made as part of the 2009 Car Scrappage Scheme, allowing consumers to buy an eligible car discounted at the point of purchase with the subsidy claimed back by the manufacturer afterwards.[21][22] The government announced in April 2014 that funding for the full grant of up to GB£5,000 will remain in place until either 50,000 grants have been issued or 2017, whichever is first.[49][50] Nevertheless, as forecasts estimated that the scheme would reached its 50,000 limit around November 2015, the government announced in August 2015 that the Plug-in Car Grant should continue until at least February 2016 for all plug-in cars with CO2 emissions of 75 g/km of under.[51] The Government also announced that a minimum of GB£200 million (~US$300 million) has been made available to continue the Plug-in Car Grant.[52]

Vehicles eligible for the subsidy must meet the following criteria:[21][53]

  • Vehicle type: Only ultra-low emission cars are eligible (vehicle category M1). Motorbikes, quadricycles and vans are not covered.
  • Carbon dioxide exhaust emissions: Vehicles must emit equal or less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre driven.
  • Range: Electric vehicles (EVs) must be able to travel a minimum of 70 mi (110 km) between charges. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) must have a minimum all-electric range of 10 mi (16 km).
  • Minimum top speed: Vehicles must be able to reach a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) or more.
  • Warranty: Vehicles must have a 3-year or 60,000 miles (97,000 km) vehicle warranty (guarantee) and a 3-year battery and electric drive train warranty, with the option of extending the battery warranty for an extra 2 years(‘drive train’ means the parts that send power from the engine to the wheels. These include the clutch, transmission (gear box), drive shafts, U-joints and differential).
  • Battery performance: Vehicles must have either a minimum 5-year warranty on the battery and electric drive train as standard, or extra evidence of battery performance to show reasonable performance after 3 years of use
  • Electrical safety: Vehicles must comply with certain regulations (UN-ECE Reg 100.00) that show that they are electrically safe.
  • Crash safety: To make sure cars will be safe in a crash, they must either have: EC whole vehicle type approval (EC WVTA, not small series) or evidence that the car has appropriate levels of safety as judged by international standards

In February 2015 the government announced that to take account of rapidly developing technology, and the growing range of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) on the British market, the criteria for the plug-in car grant was updated and from April 2015, eligible ULEVs must meet criteria in one of the following categories depending on emission levels and zero-emission-capable mileage, with a technology neutral approach, which means that hydrogen fuel cell cars are also eligible for the grant:[22][49]

  • Category 1: CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 mi (110 km).
  • Category 2: CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 to 69 mi (16 to 111 km).
  • Category 3: CO2 emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 mi (32 km).

As of October 2016, the following 31 cars available in the British market are eligible for the grant according to their category:[54]

Eligible category 1 vehicles

BMW i3, BYD e6, Citroen C-Zero, Ford Focus Electric, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Kia Soul EV, Mahindra e2o, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Nissan e-NV200 5- and 7-seater Combi, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot iOn, Renault Fluence Z.E., Renault Zoe, Smart Fortwo electric drive, Tesla Model S, Toyota Mirai, Volkswagen e-Golf, and Volkswagen e-Up!.

Plug-in hybrid models with a list price of over GB£60,000, such as the BMW i8, are no longer eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant from March 2016.[54][55]
Eligible category 2 vehicles

Audi A3 e-tron (MY 2016 only), BMW 225xe, BMW 330e, Kia Optima PHEV, Mercedes-Benz C350 e, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV (except GX3h 4Work), Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Vauxhall Ampera, Volkswagen Golf GTE, Volkswagen Passat GTE, Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid (D5 and D6 Twin Engine), and Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Momentum.[54]

Ineligible vehicles

Category 2 or 3 vehicles with a recommended retail price over £60,000 aren’t eligible for a grant. This includes: BMW i8 (category 2), Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-in Hybrid (category 3), and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid (category 3).[54]

The Tesla Roadster was not included in the government's list of eligible vehicles for the plug-in electric car grant. Tesla Motors stated that the company applied for the scheme, but did not complete its application.[56]

In December 2015, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that Plug-in car grant was extended until the end of March 2018 to encourage more than 100,000 UK motorists to buy cleaner vehicles. A total funding of GB£400 million (~US$600 million) will be available for the extension. The criteria for the Plug-in Car Grant was updated and the maximum grant drops from GB£5,000 (~US$7,450) to GB£4,500 (~US$6,750). For the extension, the amount of the grant is linked in directly with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles three vehicle categories issued in April 2015. The eligible ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) must meet criteria in one of three categories depending on emission levels (CO2 emissions bands between 50 and 75g/km) and zero-emission-capable mileage with a minimum all-electric range of 10 mi (16 km). Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also eligible for the grant.[49][24][25] The updated scheme went into effect on 1 March 2016.[25]

The all-electric Tesla Roadster was not included on the government's plug-in electric car grant list of eligible vehicles.[56]

A price cap is in place, with all Category 1 plug-in vehicles eligible for the full grant no matter what their purchase price, while Category 2 and 3 models with a list price of more than GB£60,000 (~US$90,000) are no longer eligible for the grant. Vehicles with a zero-emission range of at least 70 mi (110 km) (category 1), including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, get a full GB£4,500 (~US$6,700), but plug-in hybrids (categories 2 and 3) costing under GB£60,000 (~US$90,000) receive GB£2,500 (~US$3,725).[24][25] Under the extended scheme, some plug-in hybrid sports car are no longer eligible for the grant, such as the BMW i8 because of its GB£100,000 (~US$150,000) purchase price tag.[55] The grant scheme will come under review when a cumulative total of 40,000 Category 1 claims, and 45,000 Category 2 and 3 combined sales have been made. Both these totals will include cars sold before March 2016.[25]

In addition to the extension of the Plug-in Grant, the government also announced it will continue the "Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme." Starting in March 2016 owners of ultra-low emission vehicles who install a dedicated charge point at their home, covering roughly half the average cost, get GB£500 (~US$750) towards the cost of installing the charging point, rather than the previous GB£700 (~US$1,050) maximum.[24][25]

Plug-in Van Grant[edit]

The Plug-In Car Grant was extended to include vans since February 2012. Van buyers can receive 20% - up to GB£8,000 (~ US$12,000) - off the cost of a plug-in van. To be eligible for the scheme, vans have to meet performance criteria to ensure safety, range, and ultra-low tailpipe emissions.[23] Consumers, both business and private can receive the discount at the point of purchase.[23] The Plug-In Van Grant scheme was extended in October 2016 to make electric trucks above 3.5 tonnes eligible for grants of up to GB£20,000, when businesses switch their large trucks to an electric vehicle.[27] Also in October 2016, the government announced their commitment for an additional GB£4 million to the scheme so that all vans and trucks meeting the eligibility requirements can benefit from the grant scheme.[27] The extension of the Plug-In Van grant means that N2 vans (3.5 – 12 tonnes gross weight) and N3 vans (over 12 tonnes gross weight) are now eligible.[27]

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell is eligible for the Plug-In Van Grant.

The eligibility criteria for vans with a gross weight of 3.5 tonnes or less (N1 van) are:[23]

  • Vehicle type: only new vans are eligible vehicle category N1. This includes pre-registration conversions (normal, internal combustion engine vans that were converted to battery or hybrid versions by specialist converters before the car’s first registration).
  • Carbon dioxide exhaust emissions: vehicles must emit less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre driven.
  • Range: eligible fully electric vans must be able to travel a minimum of 60 mi (97 km) between charges. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) must have a minimum electric range of 10 mi (16 km).
  • Minimum top speed: vehicles must be able to reach a speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) or more.
  • Warranty: Vehicles must have a 3-year or 60,000 mi (97,000 km) vehicle warranty (guarantee) and a 3-year battery and electric drive train warranty, with the option of extending the battery warranty for an extra 2 years
  • Battery performance: vehicles must have either a minimum 5-year warranty on the battery and electric drive train as standard

or extra evidence of battery performance to show reasonable performance after 3 years of use

  • Electrical safety: vehicles must comply with certain regulations (UN-ECE Reg 100.00) that show that they are electrically safe.
  • Crash safety To make sure cars will be safe in a crash, they must either have EC whole vehicle type approval (EC WVTA, not small series) or evidence that the car has appropriate levels of safety as judged by international standards.

As of December 2016, the number of claims made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme totaled 2,938 units since the launch of the programme in 2012, up from 1,906 made by the end of December 2015.[26] As of October 2016 the following nine vans are eligible for the grant: BD Otomotive eTraffic, BD Otomotiv eDucato, Citroën Berlingo, Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell, Mitsubishi Outlander GX3h 4Work, Nissan e-NV200, Peugeot ePartner, Renault Kangoo Z.E., and Smith Electric Edison.[54]

Plugged-in Places[edit]

On 19 November 2009, Andrew Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced a scheme called "Plugged-in-Places", making available £30 million to be shared between three and six cities to investigate further the viability of providing power supply for electric vehicles, and encouraging local government and business to participate and bid for funds.[57]

The Government is supporting the ‘Plugged-In Places’ programme to install vehicle recharging points across the UK. The scheme offers match-funding to consortia of businesses and public sector partners to support the installation of electric vehicle recharging infrastructure in lead places across the UK.[58] There are eight Plugged-In Places: East of England;[59] Greater Manchester; London;[60] Midlands;[61] Milton Keynes;[62] North East;[63] Northern Ireland;[64] and Scotland. The Government also published an Infrastructure Strategy in June 2011.[65]

London congestion charge[edit]

All-electric vehicles (BEVs) and eligible plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) qualify for a 100% discount from the London congestion charge. A plug-in electric drive vehicle qualifies if the vehicle is registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and has a fuel type of 'electric', or alternatively, if the vehicle is a 'plug-in hybrid' and is on the Government's list of PHEVs eligible for the OLEV grant.[66] As of February 2016, approved PHEVs include all extended-range cars such as the BMW i3 REx, and plug-in hybrids that emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and that meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality, such as the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, BMW i8, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV (passenger and van variants), Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and Volkswagen Golf GTE.[67]

The original Greener Vehicle Discount was substituted by the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) scheme that went into effect on 1 July 2013. The ULED introduced more stringent emission standards that limited the free access to the congestion charge zone to any car or van that emits 75g/km or less of CO2 and meets the Euro 5 emission standards for air quality. As of July 2013 there are no internal combustion-only vehicles that meet this criteria. The measure is designed to limit the growing number of diesel vehicles on London's roads. Mayor Boris Johnson approved the new scheme in April 2013, after taking into account a number of comments received during the 12-week public consultation that took place. About 20,000 owners of vehicles registered for the Greener Vehicle Discount by June 2013 were granted a three-year sunset period (until 24 June 2016) before they have to pay the full congestion charge.[68][69][70][71]

Field testing programmes[edit]

Field testing with 100 Smart EDs began in London in 2007.[72][73] On 30 April 2009, the Electric Car Corporation put on sale the Citroën C1 ev'ie, an adapted Citroën C1 intended for city driving. On that date, it had a list price of £16,850 ($24,989 US).[74][75][76][77]

Mini E recharging in the UK

A demonstration trial with the Mini E took place between December 2009 and March 2011 with 40 Mini E cars leased to private users for a two consecutive six-month field trial periods.[78] In addition, one Mini E was delivered to the Government car pool in Downing Street to be tested by ministers in an urban environment on their official business around London.[79] The UK trial was a partnership between BMW Group UK, Scottish and Southern Energy, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. Data collection and research was conducted by Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre throughout the UK project. Funding support was provided by the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport (DFT) as part of the GB£25 million (US$41 million) UK-wide program involving trials of 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles from several carmakers.[78][79][80] The selected test area is roughly a triangle contained within the M40 motorway between the M25 motorway and Oxford, the A34 south to the M3 motorway, and the M3 back to the M25.[81]

The 40 Mini E electric cars were kept in use after the trial was completed in March 2011, participating in activities to promote awareness and understanding of electric vehicles. These cars were part of the BMW Group UK’s official vehicle fleet of 4,000 low-emission luxury vehicles deployed for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The fleet also included 160 BMW ActiveE electric cars.[78][82]

Charging infrastructure[edit]

The REVAi/G-Wiz i electric car charging at an on-street station in London.

As of 10 January 2017, the UK had 11,837 public charging points at 4,237 locations, of which 2,173 were rapid charging points at 695 locations.[28] According to UK's National Chargepoint Registry, there are over 25 network operators (chargepoint owners, branded networks and chargepoint controllers) at a national and regional basis.[83] As of October 2016, the regions with most of the infrastructure are London (16%), South East (15.6%), Scotland (15.1%), South West (9.1%), and North East (8.7%).[28]

The UK also has nine regional operators:[84] Source London, Source East, Source West, ChargePlace Scotland, Energise (for the South-East), Plugged-In Midlands, Greater Manchester EV, ChargerNet (for Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole) and eCar (for Northern Ireland).

Many companies, local and regional authorise also provide charging to employees and members of the public. Purchasers of electric vehicles also receive a £900 subsidy for installation of a charger at their home (which covers nearly all purchase and installation costs).[85]

Sales[edit]

Cumulative light-duty plug-in electric vehicle sales in the UK compared to the world's top-selling countries and regional markets as of December 2016. The UK is the fourth largest European plug-in market.[8]

Since 2006, more than 104,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the UK up until March 2017, including about 4,500 electric commercial vans.[9][10][11] These figures includes a significant number of registered plug-in electric cars and vans which were not eligible for the grant schemes.[10] Before the market launch of highway-capable mass production plug-in electric cars in 2010, a total of 1,096 electric vehicles were registered in the country between 2006 and December 2010.[86] As of December 2016, the UK had the fourth largest European stock of light-duty plug-in vehicles after Norway, the Netherlands and France,[8] and with 36,907 plug-in passenger cars registered in 2016, ranked as the second best selling European plug-in market after Norway.[11]

2010-2013[edit]

Electric car sales grew from 138 units in 2010 to 1,082 units during 2011.[1][87] Before 2011, the G-Wiz quadricycle as top selling EV for several years.[88] During 2012, a total of 2,254 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK, of which, 1,262 were pure electrics, and sales were led by the Nissan Leaf with 699 units, followed by the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with 470 units, and the Vauxhall Ampera with 455 units sold in 2012.[2][89][90][91] In addition, 279 Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric vans and 252 Renault Twizy electric quadricycles were sold through September 2012.[92] Vehicles eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant accounted for 0.1% of total new car sales in 2012, with pure electric cars representing only 0.06%.[93]

During 2013, a total of 3,586 plug-in electric cars were registered, up 59.0% from 2012.[3][94] Of these, 2,512 were pure electric cars, up 99.0% from 2012, and 1,072 plug-in hybrids, up 8.1% from 2012.[3] Plug-in car sales represented a 0.16% market share of the 2.26 million new cars sold in the UK in 2013.[94] The top selling plug-in electric car during 2013 was the Nissan Leaf, with 1,812 units sold,[14] and the Prius PHV ended 2013 as the top selling plug-in hybrid with 509 units sold, up 8.5% from 2012.[94]

2014[edit]

The British market experienced a rapid growth of plug-in car sales during 2014, driven by the introduction of new models such as the BMW i3, Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, Renault Zoe, and Volkswagen e-Up!.[12][13][95] The number of plug-in cars available in the market climbed from 9 models in 2011 to 18 in 2013, and to 29 models by the end of 2014.[13] Registrations during 2014 totaled 14,518 plug-in electric cars and consisted of 6,697 pure electrics and 7,821 plug-in hybrids. Total registrations in 2014 were up 305% from 2013, with all-electric cars growing 167% while plug-in hybrid registrations were up 628% from a year earlier.[4] The plug-in electric car segment captured a 0.59% market share of new car sales in 2014, over three times and a half the market share of 2013 (0.16%).[4][14] In November 2014, with 646 all-electric cars and 1,225 plug-in hybrids registered, the segment's market share passed 1% of monthly new car sales for the first time in the UK.[96][97] Again in January 2015, the segment's market share was over 1% of new car sales with 1,715 plug-in electric cars registered that month.[98][99]

Nissan Leaf patrol cars deployed by the West Midlands Police, England. The Nissan Leaf, with 15,000 units sold by September 2016, has been the best-selling pure electric car in the UK since 2011.[19][100]

Nissan Leaf sales in September 2014 achieved a record of 851 units, up from 332 units the same month in 2013, representing not only the best monthly sales ever in the UK, but also the largest volume of Nissan Leafs ever sold in one month in a European country. The previous European record was achieved by Norway in March 2013 with 703 Leafs sold in that month.[12][101] Sales of recently introduced BMW i3 and i8 models exceeded 1,600 units during 2014.[102] The Outlander P-HEV was among the new models with a significant effect in the market, released in April 2014, it captured a 35.8% market share of total plug-in sales during the first half of 2014.[103] The Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid became the top selling plug-in electric vehicle in July 2014 and captured 43% of all applications to the Plug-in Car Grants scheme that month.[104]

The Outlander P-HEV ended 2014 as the top selling plug-in electric car in the UK that year with 5,370 units sold.[105][106] Sales of the Nissan Leaf also experienced significant growth in 2014, with 4,051 units sold, up 124% from the 1,812 units sold in 2013, and ranked as the top selling all-electric car in 2014.[95] As of December 2014, the Leaf continued ranking as the top selling plug-in electric car in the UK ever with cumulative sales of 7,197 units since its introduction in March 2011.[14][90][95] Over 24,500 light-duty plug-in electric cars were registered in the country at the end of December 2014.[13]

2015[edit]

The surge in demand for plug-in cars continued during 2015, to the extent that 2014's ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) sales figure was passed in June 2015.[51] Plug-in electric car registrations in the UK totaled 28,188 units in 2015, consisting of 9,934 pure electric cars and 18,254 plug-in hybrids. Total registrations in 2015 were up 94.0% from 2014, with all-electric cars growing 48.3% year-on-year, while plug-in hybrid registrations were up 133.0% year-on-year.[5] Since 2011, about 54,000 plug-in electric vehicles have been registered in the UK up until December 2015, including plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, and about 2,900 commercial vans. This figure includes a significant number of registered plug-in electric cars and vans which were not eligible for the grant schemes.[15]

The BMW i3 ranks as the third best selling plug-in electric car in the UK ever with almost 6,000 units sold through October 2016.[107]

The plug-in electric car segment raised its market share of new car sales in 2015 to almost 1.1%, up from 0.59% in 2014.[4][15] With almost 3,100 plug-in cars sold during December 2015, the plug-in segment reached a record of 1.7% of new car sales in the UK, the highest ever.[15] According to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the market share of all new leased cars reached 4% in 2015, while a record 4.7% of all new leased cars registered during the last quarter of 2015was a plug-in.[108]

Sales of the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV in the British market reached the 10,000 unit milestone in March 2015, allowing the plug-in hybrid to overtake the Leaf as the all-time top selling plug-in electric vehicle in the UK.[109][110] Sales of the Nissan Leaf sales passed the 10,000 unit milestone in June 2015.[111] The top selling models in 2015 were the Outlander P-HEV with 11,681 units registered, up 118% from 2014, followed by the Leaf with 5,236 units (up 29%), and the BMW i3 with 2,213 units (up 59%).[112]

As of December 2015, cumulative sales of the Outlander P-HEV, the top selling plug-in car in the UK ever, totaled 17,045 units registered,[112] and cumulative sales of the Nissan Leaf, the top selling all-electric car ever, totaled 12,433 units registered.[14][112][90][95] Combined sales of the Outlander PHEV and the Nissan Leaf represent more than 50% of the British stock of plug-in electric cars sold since 2011.[113]

2016[edit]

Plug-in car sales in March 2016 achieved the best monthly plug-in sales volume on record ever, with 7,144 grant eligible cars registered, exceeding the previous high of 6,104 units, recorded in March 2015.[114][115] The plug-in market share during this month reached 1.37% of total UK new car registrations, continuing the trend for the fifth month running of sales equal of or exceeding the 1.3% market share threshold.[115] The surge in March sales was expected as a result of the changes in the Plug-in Car Grant scheme, which now provides a stronger incentive for pure electrics over plug-in hybrids, as the grant amount available for purchase of both types of powertrain was reduced, but the grant for plug-in hybrids was cut by half.[115]

The Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV is the all-time top selling plug-in electric car in the UK, with 26,600 units sold up until December 2016.[17]

During the first quarter of 2016 Outlander P-HEV sales totaled 3,906 units, representing 52.3% of all plug-in hybrid registered in the UK during the quarter.[116] By early April 2016, two years since launch, there were 21,053 Outlander P-HEVs in the UK's roads, and the plug-in SUV sales represent 36.2% of the 58,186 eligible cars registered since the grant scheme was introduced in January 2011.[116][117] The sustained demand for plug-in cars over the previous 12 months through March 2016, has allowed the UK to become a leading market in the European Union for electric vehicles, ranking as the second biggest market after the Netherlands in terms of total plug-in car registrations, with 28,715 new units representing 20% of the European Union’s collective plug-in sales.[114]

Registrations during the first six months of 2016 recorded the highest-volume half-year ever for plug-in electric car registrations.[118] A total of 19,252 plug-in electric cars were registered in the UK between January and June 2016.[119] During the first half of 2016, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the top selling plug-in car in the UK with 5,738 units registered. The Nissan Leaf remained the top selling pure-electric car with 2,336 registrations.[118]

A total of 36,907 plug-in electric vehicles were registered in 2016, of which, 35,447 cars were eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant. Registrations consisted of 10,264 all-electric cars, up 3.3% from 2015, and 26,643 plug-in hybrids, up 41.9% from the previous year.[6] Sales of plug-in hybrids oversold pure electric cars, with the latter more than doubling sales of battery electric models.[6][120] The plug-in car segment's market share reached 1.37% of new car sales in 2016.[6] While overall new car registrations year-to-date increased 2.3% from the same period in 2015, total plug-in car registrations in 2016 increased 28.6% from a year earlier.[6] The Outlander P-HEV continued to lead sales of the plug-in electric segment in 2016 with 9,486 units delivered. The Leaf remained as the top selling all-electric car with 4,463 units registered. The other best selling models were the Mercedes-Benz C 350 e (4,934), BMW 330e (3,499), and the BMW i3 (2,450).[121]

By mid-October 2016, sales of the Outlander P-HEV passed the 25,000 unit mark, accounting for about 50% of all plug-in hybrid sold in the UK since 2010.[18] As of December 2016, the Outlander plug-in hybrid continued ranking as the all-time top selling plug-in electric car in the UK, with 26,600 units sold since its inception.[17] Cumulative sales of the Nissan Leaf, the second all-time best selling plug-in car and top selling all-electric car ever, passed the 15,000 unit mark in September 2016.[19] Ranking third is the BMW i3, with almost 6,000 units sold since its inception in late 2013 through October 2016.[107]

2017[edit]

Registration of plug-in cars totaled 8,087 units in March 2017, surpassing the previous sales record achieved in March 2016 (7,534).[9][16] In addition to the normal annual sales peak caused by the plate change, consumers rushed to complete purchases to avoid the new vehicle excise duty (VED) rates that came into force from 1 April for petrol-powered vehicles priced more than GB£40,000, including all plug-in hybrid models.[16] The plug-in electric car segment reached a market share of 1.44% of new car sales in March 2017.[9] Registrations during the first quarter of 2017 totaled 12,071 plug-in cars, consisting of 4,634 all-electric cars and 7,437 plug-in hybrids, achieving a record market share of 1.47% for that quarter.[9]

Top selling models by year[edit]

The following table presents annual registrations of plug-in electric cars and vans by model between 2010 and 2013, and total registrations (cumulative) by model at the end of December 2014, and at the end of June 2016.

Registration of light-duty highway legal plug-electric cars by model in the UK
between 2010 and June 2016
Model Total registered
at the end of(1)
Registrations by year between
2010 and December 2013[1][2][91][94][95][122][123]
2Q 2016[20] 2015[124] 2014[125] 2013 2012 2011 2010
Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV 21,708 16,100 5,273        
Nissan Leaf 12,837 11,219 6,838 1,812 699 635  
BMW i3 4,457 3,574 1,534 NA      
Renault Zoe 4,339 3,327 1,356 378      
Mercedes-Benz C350 e 3,337 628 0        
Tesla Model S 3,312 2,087 698        
Volkswagen Golf GTE 2,657 1,359 0        
Toyota Prius PHV 1,655 1,580 1,324 509 470    
Audi A3 e-tron 1,634 1,218 66        
Nissan e-NV200 1,487 1,047 399        
BMW 330e iPerformance 1,479            
BMW i8 1,307 1,022 279        
Vauxhall Ampera 1,267 1,272 1,169 175 455 4  
Volvo XC90 T8 813 38          
Renault Kangoo Z.E 785 740 663        
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid 475 395 241        
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid 410 337 232        
Peugeot iOn 405 374 368 26(2) 251 124  
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive 303 162 0        
Mitsubishi i MiEV 252 251 266 1(2) 107 125 27
Smart electric drive 215 212 205 3(2) 13   63
Citroën C-Zero 213 167 202 45(2) 110 46  
Kia Soul EV 193 145 20        
BMW 225xe 163            
Volkswagen e-Up! 154 142 118        
Mercedes-Benz S500 PHEV 125 157 14        
Volkswagen e-Golf 123 114 47        
Chevrolet Volt 119 122 124 23(2) 67    
Renault Fluence Z.E. 79 70 73 7(2) 67    
Ford Focus Electric 22 19 19        
Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell 22 23 23      
Mia electric 15 15 14      
Volkswagen Passat GTE 1            
BYD e6 0 0 0 50(2)      
Total registrations[1][2][86][126][125][119] 66,374 47,920 21,504 3,586 2,254 1,082 138
Notes: NA: not available. Registrations figures seldom correspond to same sales figure.
(1) Registrations at the end of a period are cumulative figures. (2) CYTD through June 2013.

Cost-effectiveness of carbon reductions[edit]

A study by Element Energy commissioned by BP and published in September 2013, concluded that the use of advanced biofuels in the UK, and particularly E20 cellulosic ethanol, is a more cost-effective way of reducing emissions than using plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the timeframe to 2030. The study also found that the use of higher blends of biofuels is complementary to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can deliver strong CO2 savings with a decarbonised electric grid, but are expected to have significantly higher costs than internal combustion engine vehicles and hybrid cars to 2030, as the latter are expected to be the most popular models by 2030. According to the study, blending biofuels in fuels is a cheaper way to reduce emissions than using BEVs in the timeframe to 2030, as an E20 blend in a HEV can achieve a 10% emission savings compared to an HEV running on E5, for an annual fuel cost premium of GB£13 compared to an annual cost of GB£195 for an all-electric car. The study also concluded that advanced biofuels address emissions of both new and existing vehicles, thus reducing emissions earlier than new powertrains and abating the risk of relying solely on longer term deployment of new technology.[127][128]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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