THE number of battery electric vehicles on the road in the UK has passed the million mark, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The milestone was passed in January - a month in which the new car market grew by 8.2 per cent.
The first month of the year saw 142,876 new cars registered, an increase of 10,882 units on January 2023, the best performance for the month since 2020 and the 18thconsecutive month of growth.
The increase was driven entirely by the fleet market, which rose by 29.9 per cent, while private retail uptake fell by 15.8 per cent.
Fleets accounted for more than six in 10 new cars registered, up from just over half last year.
The top selling new car in January was the Kia Sportage with 4,239 models sold, followed by the Ford Puma at 4,201 and the Nissan Qashqai which clocked up 4,008 units.
Some 20,935 BEVs were registered in January, a rise of 21.0 per cent year on year, taking the overall total since 2002 to1,001,677.
BEV market shareforJanuary also grew year on year to 14.7 per cent while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) recorded volume growth of 31.1 per cent to take 8.4 per cent of the market, while hybrid (HEV) volumes fell 1.2 per cent with a 13.1 per cent share.
However, the SMMT said that while fleet and business demand for BEVs grew by 41.7 per cent in January, registrations by private buyers fell by 25.1 per cent - a trend that will undermineBritain'sability to delivernet zero.
Ahead of next month's Budget, the auto industry is callingforgovernment tosupportconsumers by temporarily halving VAT on new BEV purchases. Such a step would cost the Treasury an average of just £1,125 per car,which isless than the cost of the previous Plug-in Car Grant andwouldput more than a quarter of a millionelectric- rather than petrol or diesel - carson the road by the end of 2026, on top of those already expected.
Not only would this cutCO2by more than five million tonnes during that time, it would mean that the next million EVs could be delivered in just two years.
Temporarily reducing VAT on EVs would partly mirror the tax exemption already offered to consumers on other carbon reduction technologies such as heat pumps.
The SMMT added supporting the EV consumer today would also ensure wider benefits such as increasing the supply of used EVs, enlarging the overall market to make it more attractive for charging and manufacturing investment, and slashing Britain's carbon footprint.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive,said: "It's taken just over 20 years to reach our million EV milestone -butwith the right policies, we can double down on that success in just another two.Market growth is currently dependent on businesses and fleets. Government mustthereforeuse the upcoming Budget to support privateEVbuyers,temporarily halving VAT to cut carbon, drive economic growth and help everyone make the switch.Manufacturers have been asked to supply the vehicles, we now ask government to help consumers buy the vehicles on which net zero depends."
The latest 2024 outlook for the new car market estimates a total overall volume of 1.974 million units,which isa 4,000 unit increase on the October estimate,but with theBEVforecast reduced toa market share of 21.0 per centover the year, compared withthe22.3 per cent anticipated in October andthe23.3 per cent expected a year ago.
While myriad factors such as high energyprices,inflation and interest rates, charginganxiety and mixed messaging from government haverestricted demand, 100,000 more BEVs willstillreach the road in 2024compared withlast year, totalling some 414,000 units - more than one in five new cars. This volume would increase even further if a VAT reduction on EVs was introduced, said the SMMT.