Almost 750,000 electric vehicles now on UK roads

One in five new registrations in 2021 were electric vehicles

Published

The number of electric vehicles on UK roads hit 748,349 by the end of 2021, despite other areas of the car industry being hit by the pandemic and parts shortages.

According to new data revealed by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), EV ownership continues to grow rapidly, accounting for one-in-five new registrations last year.

However, they make up just one in 50 cars on the road, demonstrating the scale of the challenge ahead for Government and industry as the 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars gets closer.

There are almost 750,000 electric vehicles on UK roads
There are almost 750,000 electric vehicles on UK roads

The SMMT data found that the number of cars on the road increased 0.4 per cent in 2021 to just over 40.5m, but car ownership fell 0.2 per cent to just over 35m. It is the first consecutive annual decrease in car ownership in more than 100 years.

Key to this decline is said to be pandemic-related dealership closures and, more recently, the parts shortage that has hit the car industry hard.

With buyers finding it more difficult to get into new cars, as well as increasing reliability making cars last longer, the average age of cars on UK roads hit a new record high of 8.7 years, more than a year older than a decade ago.

The number of electric vehicles on UK roads hit 748,349 by the end of 2021, despite other areas of the car industry being hit by the pandemic and parts shortages.
The number of electric vehicles on UK roads hit 748,349 by the end of 2021, despite other areas of the car industry being hit by the pandemic and parts shortages.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Britain’s switch to electric vehicles continues to gather pace, with a record one in five new car registrations now plug-ins. However, they still represent around one in 50 cars on the road, so there is significant ground to cover if we are to fully decarbonise road transport at pace.

“The first consecutive annual fall in vehicle numbers in more than a century shows how significantly the pandemic has impacted the industry, leading Britons to hold onto their cars for longer.

“With fleet renewal essential to net zero, we must build consumer confidence in the economy and, for drivers, confidence in the charging infrastructure to get the transition into top gear.”

The data found that EV uptake varies dramatically across the UK. For example, a third of all plug-in cars are registered in London and the South East, representing 3.0 and 2.6 per cent of all cars respectively. This is compared with less than one per cent in the North East.