The rise of electric vehicles

Alternatively-Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) have grown rapidly in popularity over the last few years, as we have reported before. But which types of AFV have become most prevalent?

The answer lies in the monthly statistics published by the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). These show the number of new registrations of three types of electric car: Battery Electric Vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (see our earlier post for a description of each type). The latter of these are further broken down into petrol and diesel hybrids.


As the graph above shows, registrations of every kind of electric car have grown significantly over the past three years, with one exception - diesel hybrids. The most popular AFVs are still Hybrid Electric Vehicles; 52,000 new petrol vehicles were registered in the 12 months to January 2017, double the 26,000 registered in 2013.

The fastest growing, though, are Plug-in Hybrids. 25,700 were registered in the 12 months to January 2017, compared to just 1,070 in 2013. Finally, registrations of Battery Electric Vehicles have risen from 2,510 in 2013 to 10,700 in the 12 months to January 2017.


These figures cover alternatively-fuelled cars, but what about vans? Unfortunately, the SMMT doesn’t break down its van registration figures by fuel type. However, the Department for Transport does publish quarterly statistics on registrations of ultra-low emission vehicles, including vans.

As our second graph shows, the rate of new registrations of ultra-low emission vans trebled during 2014. Whereas just 326 were registered in the year to March 2014, 988 were registered in the next 12 months – a 203% increase. However, that rate hasn’t grown much since. 1,087 were registered in the year to September 2016 (the latest period for which figures are available) – just a 10% increase on the 988 registered in the year to March 2015.

So, alternatively-fuelled cars and vans are much more prevalent on Britain’s roads now than they were three years ago. This has mainly been driven by the rise of petrol Hybrid Electric cars and Plug-in Hybrids, although Battery Electric cars and electric vans have become more popular too. Both technological improvements and government incentives have helped to drive this change, and we’ll be exploring both in future posts in this series.