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Electric Vehicles in United Kingdom

One of the most crucial moves to reap the UK’s Net-Zero goal may be the full transition to electric-powered cars (EVs). By 2032 at the latest, all new light-duty vehicles sold, including passenger vehicles, taxi, vans, motorbikes and mopeds will be called to be fully battery-electric vehicles by the Climate Change Committee (CCC). To attain Net Zero, all vehicles – including heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) must be fossil fuel free by 2050. For the segment of passenger vehicles and vans, this will mean accelerating the uptake of EVs from around 400,000 today (including battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models: 1% of all UK vehicles) to 23.2 million by 2032 (55% of all vehicles), and by 2050 possibly up to 49.0 million (100%). It is clear that UK Government and industry have the main roles in implementing a range of policy and market mechanisms required particularly for passenger vehicles and vans. In the following, I would like to utilize this chance in order to get you more familiar with the varied aspects of EVs’ condition in the UK (1).

The UK desires to be the first major auto market in Europe to end sales of internal combustion engines, starting in 2030, but it’s been far more reluctant than its key European neighbors to help fund acceptance of electric alternatives. In 2017, UK Government announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cards from 2040. In 2018, Government launched the 'Road to Zero' describing the next steps towards achieving cleaner road transport and helping to build a high-growth, high productivity, green economy across the UK. In 2019, Government said that company car drivers choosing pure electric vehicles would pay no benefit-in-kind tax in 2020/2021. In 2020, ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars was brought forward ten years to 2030. Finally, in 2021, the cost of running an electric car is now significantly cheaper than the equivalent petrol or diesel car - 2021 is expected to see an increasing switch by fleet operators to cleaner fueled vehicles. Therefore, the tendency to transform of transportation fleet has been observed in all of the recent years (2).

The adoption of plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom is actively supported by the British government through the plug-in car and van grants schemes and other incentives. Around 455,000 light-duty plug-in electric vehicles had been registered in the UK up until February 2021, consisting of about 215,000 all-electric vehicles and 240,000 plug-in hybrids. Until 2019, the UK had the second largest European stock of light-duty plug-in vehicles in use after Norway. A surge of plug-in car sales began in Britain in 2014. Total registrations went from 3,586 in 2013, to 37,092 in 2016, and rose to 59,911 in 2018. The market shares of the plug-in segment went from 0.16% in 2013 to 0.59% in 2014, and achieved 2.6% in 2018. As of September 2018, the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV is the all-time top-selling plug-in car in the UK with almost 37,000 units registered, followed by the Nissan Leaf with nearly 24,000. Ranking third is the BMW 330e with more than 13,000 units, followed by the BMW i3 with 11,000. Also, as of 18 January 2018, the UK had 19,108 public charging points at 6,703 locations, of which 4,391 were rapid charging points at 1,332 locations (3).

The reputation of some electric vehicles within the UK has shot up over the previous couple of years, with over 235,000 pure-electric cars currently on the road, and over 495,000 plug-in cars (pure-EV & PHEV), compared with just 3,500 in 2013. This vast increase in electric car sales has come about because of a greater level of selection for drivers, a shift in the public's perspective towards electric cars and a perpetually rising public recharging network. Combined, this suggests that UK electric car buyers have a greater selection of vehicles to choose from than ever before. The future is bright too with new plug-in cars - covering a wide cross-section of the market - launching all the time, meaning an electric car is now a viable option for a large number of motorists. What's more, the Plug-in Car Grant reduces the price of pure-electric cars costing under £35,000 by £2,500 (4).

The transition to EVs will bring significant benefits and present market opportunities:

  • A green recovery. The green recovery will require the prioritization of infrastructure projects that not only reduce emissions but also labor intensive, spread geographically across the UK and have high multiplier effects. These include national infrastructure projects such as improved charge point infrastructure and electricity grid upgrades, which could be brought forward to stimulate jobs and investment (5).

  • Improved air quality. The link between EVs and air quality is clear. Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK, and in the UK alone in 2016 was responsible for 40,000 premature deaths. A full shift to EVs by 2050 will have one of the highest impacts particularly on reducing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), responsible for asthma. Inflammation and other lung problems (6).

  • New market opportunities. There is a chance for the UK automotive manufacturing sector to become a world leader within the development and production of EVs. Early investment in EVs will facilitate in delivery of this. Consultant Vivid Economics found that a UK transition to 100% market share of EVs by 2030 is likely to increase investment in the EV industry, with potential to increase UK production from around 16,000 EVs today to around 880,000 EVs per year, creating 89,000 green jobs in the EV industry (7).

In sum, although giant steps have been taken toward the cultivation and spread of EVs in the UK, there is a long way to go to reach the final accomplishment of EVs in this country. By regarding the current measure taken in this country, the glorious future for EVs is not unexpected in the UK.


(1) Terri Wills, UK’s transition to electric vehicles, Briefing document, Climate Change Committee


(3) Lane, Ben. "Electric car market statistics". UK: Next Green Car. Retrieved 18 March 2021


(5) Climate Change Committee (2020), Letter to the Prime Minister on COVID-19 Recovery

(6) Royal College of Physicians (2016), Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution

(7) Vivid Economic and Imperial College London for the CCC (2019), Accelerated electrification and the GB electricity system

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