Low-carbon vehicles claim record UK market share

Low-carbon vehicles secured a record share of the UK new car market last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has claimed.

Alternatively-fuelled vehicle sales grew by one-fifth to surpass 4% of the market share for the first time in January, according to the industry group, which revealed the overall UK market reached a 12-year high.

Figures show that 4.2% of the 174,564 registrations were low-carbon models, beating the previous market share record of 3.6% achieved in January and November in 2016.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “2017 got off to a good start in the new car market, buoyed by a great range of new models which are safer and cleaner than ever before. It’s encouraging to see alternatively-fuelled vehicles benefiting from this positive growth, reaching a record market share.

“After record growth in 2016, some cooling is anticipated over the coming months, but provided interest rates remain low and the economy stable, the market is in a good position to withstand its short-term challenges.”

EV boom

The UK Government moved to incentivise the low-carbon vehicle market in 2011 through the launch of the plug-in car grant, which gives buyers up to £4,500 towards the cleanest new cars. It was scheduled to expire in 2016 but was extended by 48 months amidst criticism from environmental groups.

There have been 85,581 eligible cars registered since the launch of the Plug-In car grant, according to statistics, which show that pure electric Plug-In registrations were up 72.9% on the same time last year. The Government recently opened up a £4m avenue for businesses to switch their large trucks and vans to electric models through the Plug-In Van grant.

While registrations of petrol cars grew 8.9%, the data shows that diesel sales were down 4.3%. This comes as ministers consider the national rollout of a diesel scrappage scheme.

A new report from Carbon Tracker and Grantham Institute noted that electric vehicles (EVs) are currently growing 60% year-on-year and are likely account for more than two-thirds of the global road transport by the mid-century. EVs are estimated to be worth £51bn to the UK economy – if the Government invests in the necessary infrastructure and upskilling the motor industry for the transition.

The Government is starting to respond positively, with more than £600m pledged so far over this Parliament to boost the market. Philip Hammond used the Autumn Statement to announce £390m of new funding for low-carbon transport, which includes testing infrastructure for driverless cars and charging points for Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs).

George Ogleby

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