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25 Sep 2020

UK Electric car sales rise despite COVID-19

By Ruby
  • Read time: 3 minutes
In July, car dealerships in the UK were allowed to reopen after the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown, a move that saw the sale of electric vehicles surge. As manufacturers work towards reducing emissions to avoid hefty fines, EV sales in 2020 compared to 2019 have been seen to almost triple. According to the society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the number of the overall car sales saw a 97 percent decline during the lockdown, but that of EVs plummeted. In July alone, the sale of electric cars rose to 4.7 percent, compared to the same time in 2019, in which sales stood at 1.4 percent.

Why the sales are blowing up

For the first time in history, EVs have outsold diesel cars. In April, the registered EV sales accounted for 32 percent, sales that have remained strong in the months that followed. The second highest month of registration was June, totaling to 8, 903 vehicles. In the August figures of pure-electric cars, there was a 78 percent rise compared to the same period the previous year, 2019, with plug-in models (PHEVs) growing by 222 percent.

This is in comparison to diesel (-40 percent), and hybrids (+38 percent) which saw an overall decline of 6 percent. After the months of June and July, August had the next big share of demand in pure-EVs, with a growth of 260 percent. The overall electric market share has seen a significant rise. SMMT figures show that so far, the UK accounts for 74,500 EVs, with 60 percent of these being pure-electric.

One of the reasons that have led to the rise of EV sales can be linked to the UK tax charges, which in April exempted zero emission cars. To this regard, combustion engine cars now cost about 22 times more than the EVs. The rise in sales can also be attributed to the European market, which as part of the pandemic rescue package saw the arrival of cheaper models. Improved battery range, an attractive price point and increasing concerns for the environment by consumers are the other factors that have led to the popularity of EVs.


While china has over the years led in the electric vehicle race due to the incentives offered and government support, in 2020, Europe has proven to be the new leader. Tesla, for instance, is one of the electrified vehicle online suppliers involved with a direct delivery approach to the consumer. This has been among the reason UK consumers have leaned more towards EVs in the face of the pandemic. As traditional dealerships remained closed, Tesla delivered its services directly to the consumers during the lockdown. In the global electric car sales in the first half of 2020, the company saw a 30 percent overall sale.

UK Charge points

Since 2011, UKs charge points have seen a tremendous growth, so far, accounting for more than 11,600 stations. Towards the end of June 2020, the UK had over 32,000 connectors. Currently, there are three primary charge types, including slow chargers, fast chargers and rapid units.

  • Slow Charging Units: With a power of up to 3kW, these chargers are a best fit for about 6-8 hours overnight.

  • Fast Charging Units: These can fully recharge various models for about 3-4 hours, and have a power point of 7-22kW.

  • Rapid Charging Units: With 43kW+, these units give an 80 percent charge in a span of 30 minutes. Depending on whether direct or alternating current is used, they come with two different charge points including AC and DC.

In the months ahead, the EV charge point sales in the UK are expected to keep rising, through to 2030. Although the sale of other new vehicles has declined, EV chargers will enjoy an un-staggering growth, as evidenced by the Tesla Model 3, which has been the best selling car in the UK so far. The users of these cars will need a place to charge their vehicles.

Following the UK lockdown, the country experienced a drop in EV charger installations, after companies such as Pod Point halted their operations to protect their workers. However, public charge points were adopted, and installed throughout the region over the lockdown period.

By 2030, a large number of home car charger points are expected to be erected, accounting for about 70 percent. With workplace charging being the better alternative to home charging, it is also expected to see a 7 percent growth by 2030. Currently, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is working towards supporting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) through the provision of the OLEV grant for electric car home chargers. Electric car owners who have eligible vehicles are advised to claim a ChargePoint. The Office of Low Emission Vehicles also offers a Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) grant. This grant is available to charity, public authority and any business.


EV Global sales

After electric vehicles made a milestone of a million sales in 2017, meaningful progress was noted. In July 2020, Europe saw an all-time high of sales in the electrified vehicles industry despite the lockdown. Italy, which was hard hit by the pandemic, doubled its sales compared to 2019. In Europe, Italy is among the largest car markets. Although electric cars are not as popular, the first six months of 2020 was proof that Italy has a high potential for the market.

After Tesla, the other hybrid and electric powertrains that fall into the category of top 10 making sales in 2020 include Ford Kuga, Mercedes A-Class and Kia Niro. As the demand for EVs keep rising and manufacturers ramp up the production capacity, the EV market will continue to record a steady growth. In the future, as the market continues to record a rising customer acceptance, more attention by OEMs, ingenious suppliers and the intervention of the government, the profitability of the segment will accelerate beyond 2022.

In the UK, the transport industry is the largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for about a quarter of all emissions. The adoption of electric vehicles will in that case be an excellent strategy to containing the emissions and fostering a cleaner environment. If the UK is to emphasise on the projected 2040 fossil-fuelled vehicles ban, a large part of CO2 emissions will be addressed.

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Written by Ruby

Writes blogs about EV charging and climate solutions for 50five.