Rise in sales of new battery-electric cars06 Mar 2023

But proportion stays the same

The number of new battery-electric cars sold in the UK showed a year-on-year rise in February however as a proportion of all sales the share remained the same.

Figures from the SMMT show that of the 74,441 new cars sold last month, 12,310 were pure battery-electric models, 16.5% of the total.

This compares with 10,417 (17.7% market share) of 58,994 sold in February last year.

So far this year the market share of battery-electric cars is 14.3%, the same proportion as seen in January and February 2022.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: 

“Looked at as a barometer for the economy this rise in overall sales looks like good news, but in terms of the cars we are choosing to buy, the battery-electric share of the market is disappointing given the role electric vehicles are set to play in meeting our climate change objectives. 

“Unless we choose to drive less, by the end of 2030 we estimate that well over a third of all miles driven by cars must be zero emission from the exhaust. At the moment it is under 2% which suggests a far more rapid take up of pure electric models is needed.”

The RAC Foundation has just published a report looking at how we might meet our carbon reduction targets, particularly as they relate to cars.

The study reveals that to be on track the total number of miles driven by car that are zero emission at the exhaust must be at least 37% of the total by the end of 2030. Currently it is less than 2%. Progress towards the 2030 goal is being tracked by the Foundation’s green fleet index.

The SMMT figures show that in February this year hybrids of one form or another accounted for 35.5% of sales, however the RAC Foundation study suggests they will do little to help meet environmental targets.

According to the report:

“The fact that plug-in hybrid cars do not make a more material contribution in the modelling is a product of the way in which many are currently used – in practice this is as ICE [internal combustion engine] cars, with the battery electric option not used enough of the time to make a significant overall contribution to emissions reductions.

“For plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology to make a greater impact, there would need to be some large changes. For example, if new PHEVs came with software that strongly compelled electric use, had a shorter ICE range or a greater electric range, or, for fleets, were provided with incentives to drivers to maximise electric operation, progress in this direction might be made.

“The utility factor of PHEVs (the proportion of the driven distance that is travelled in electric mode) would have to climb significantly higher than where it currently sits. However, there is insufficient evidence of this occurring in practice to justify including scenarios with higher utility factors in the modelling.”



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
[email protected] | 07711 776448

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. 

All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org

The Foundation is a registered charity.