UK EV Sales Soared To New Heights During Covid-19 Lockdown

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In the UK, EV sales reached record levels during the coronavirus lockdown, new data show. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shared that even though there was a 97% decline in total vehicle sales during the lockdown, the demand for EVs is unmistakable. (Before getting into the new numbers, also be sure to read “This Is Why Electric Car Sales Are Blowing Up In The UK” for more information on the backstory here.)

In April, there were 1,365 new EVs registered that accounted for 32% of all new vehicle registrations. EVs outsold diesel cars for the first time. The sales remained strong in May and June and July. June was the second-highest month of EV registrations recorded, with a total of 8,903 new vehicle registrations. Cornwall Insight noted that these trends are just a preview into the future of EV sales.

Katie Hickford, an analyst at Cornwall Insight, shared her thoughts. She pointed out that the demand for EVs seemed 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,” she said.

“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 EV 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.”

EV Sales Across The Globe

In July, we saw record EV sales all across Europe even as the market was still recovering from the lockdown. Orders were pouring in like never before — there were 93,000 registrations in June, which was a record performance. This placed June’s plugin share at 8.2%, which in turn brought the 2020 share up to 7.9%. Compared to 2019, which was 3.6%, it seems clear that one effect the pandemic had on the EV market was that more people wanted EVs.

The Renault Zoe and Tesla Model 3 led the sales charts. In Italy, which was hit very hard by the pandemic, EV sales have doubled from 2019. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest car market, and even though EVs generally are not as popular there as they are in the UK, France, or Germany, the first six months of 2020 showed that Italy also has its eyes on EVs. Sales have doubled year over year despite the fact that the overall car market sank by 46% less than in 2019.

For more perspective on global EV sales, see the full report we just published: “Global Plugin Vehicle Volumes Fell 14% In 1st Half Of 2020, Better Than Auto Market’s 28% Drop.”

Second Half of 2020

We’ll see what the second half of 2020 brings. There is still a lot of expectation for further growth in the UK EV market and in Europe as a whole, since some competitive looking new models are hitting the market (like the Volkswagen ID.4) and incentives are stronger in the second half of 2020 than they were in the first half.

On the other hand, there is a question about whether the impact of COVID-19 was delayed a bit when it comes to the EV market since, as noted above, lead times are longer with electric vehicles. However, it seems that if EVs were going to dip more, we would have seen that by now. Instead, we’re seeing recovery.

In the UK and other top markets, another thing to remember is that word of mouth takes time. Many people heard about the stronger EV incentives and quickly got electric cars. Others will need to hear about them from friends, family members, and coworkers — and sit in their cars — before they go electric. Overall, we think you should expect more growth in the second half of 2020 in the electric car market.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

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