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UK Plugin EV Share Above 20% In September, Tesla Model 3 Overall Bestseller

The UK auto market saw plugin electric vehicles take 21.65% share in September, up over 2x year-on-year. Full battery electrics outperformed, alone taking 15.2% share and a record 32,721 unit volume. Old-school diesel sales fell off a cliff, dropping to under 5% market share in an overall auto market down ~45% in volume from seasonal norms at just over 215,000 units. With an end of quarter push, the Tesla Model 3 was the UK’s overall best seller in September.


September’s combined plugin result of 21.6% comprised 15.2% full battery electrics (BEVs) and 6.4% plugin hybrids (PHEVs), a continued reweighting towards BEVs that has been ongoing this year. PHEVs – no longer receiving any incentives in the UK – have been stable at 6% to 7% share for most of 2021. The cumulative plugin share for 2021 now stands at 16.1%, up from 8.8% at this point in 2020.

Old school combustion powertrains (those without any regen/electric-assist) fell below 50% of the market (48.75%) for the first time since the steam age. Unassisted diesels fell to their lowest point in the modern era, at just 4.95% share, from 14.33% year-on-year, with volume at a pitiful 10,658 units.

Mild hybrid diesels (which give modest ~15% efficiency savings) gained around 6% share of the market, but are no longer a growth category. In fact, plugless hybrids as a whole (both mild and HEV variants) have remained static at around 30% of the market over the past 5 months and may now just be in holding pattern as BEVs grow to replace everything, starting with the dirtiest fossils.

Most Popular BEV Brands

As usual, we don’t have complete data on all of the best selling BEV models in the UK, but we do have brand share data. We also know, via the SMMT, that the Tesla Model 3, boosted by Tesla’s usual end-of-quarter peak, was the UK’s overall best selling vehicle in September, with 6879 registrations.

Using DVLA data courtesy of New Automotive, we can rank September’s most popular BEV brands. (Note that DVLA data differs from SMMT’s more complete data, by excluding custom license plates, but the ranking is accurate.)

Although the Tesla Model 3 was evidently very dominant in the month of September, that was in large part because September represented 93% of Tesla’s Q3 deliveries in the UK, an artefact of Tesla’s international logistics limitations whilst it only has two active factories. More factories are coming online soon.

When we step back and take a broader view of the entire Q3 2021, the data on market share between different auto groups tells another story:

In this bigger picture, VW Group led by a significant margin in Q3, presumably partly thanks to the popularity of the newly arrived Volkswagen ID.4. Tesla was in fact only slightly ahead of Hyundai Motor Group in Q3 as a whole.

However, this is all before the Tesla Model Y starts shipping to the UK (the RHD variant is not yet being produced in volume). Once it does so, these market shares will change again, with Tesla getting much closer to VW Group.

Bear in mind that this is all an evolving landscape with many of the large manufactures bringing out diverse models (often on shared platforms) at ever more affordable price points. For example, Hyundai Motor Group is not standing still, with the Kia EV6 and Genesis GV60 arriving next year. All of this is great news for consumers.

Genesis GV60. Image Courtesy: Genesis

Meanwhile, notice how Renault-Nissan have lost their mojo, despite their early lead in BEVs, and despite the Nissan Leaf being built within the UK. How disappointing.


New Automotive’s analysis of the DVLA data reveals that many urban areas of the UK are now switching to BEVs in droves, with several cities seeing BEVs alone take over 20% share of new sales. Oxford and Newcastle saw close to 25% BEV share in September.

Given that all auto manufacturers know that BEVs are the now the only growth area of the market, and will completely dominate within very few years, most are sensibly not letting the chip shortage fall too heavily on their BEV production (relative to their ICE production).

We also know that the UK has been suffering with fuel shortages for combustion vehicles in recent weeks, which is giving further impetus to the EV transition.

Based on reliable seasonal patterns, December is now on track for over 25% BEV share in the UK, and PHEVs will likely contribute another 8%–12% share. Plugins will therefore sum to roughly 35% share by year end.

Assuming that plugless hybrids (both HEV and mild hybrids) remain at around 30% share, the share of old-school ICE powertrains will likely fall to around 35% (around one third) of the market in December.

What are your thoughts on the UK’s transition towards cleaner transport? Please share your insights in the comments below.


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Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and the human condition. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.


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