2019 car registration news – was it really that good for electric vehicles?

Posted on February 7th, 2020 by Rob Marshall

2019 car registration news - was it really that good for electric vehicles?

Thanks to the attention that ‘pure’ battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are attracting through the media, politicians and carmakers, many people are expressing an interest in switching to electric. In many ways, going full electric makes sense. Yet, it is also a leap into the dark. Many cautious would-be buyers are waiting to see what happens, before parting with their cash.


2019’s sales hit?

While we are well into 2020, digesting last year’s car registration figures reveals that BEV sales increased by 144% in a market that declined 2.4%, compared to 2018. This might look impressive but total BEVs registrations represented a lowly 1.6% of the 2019 new car market, underlying that more action is needed to meet the 50-70% penetration that the UK government envisages for BEVs by the end of the decade. Apart from meeting the challenges of reducing BEVs’ new list prices, manufacturers have to continue their work to reduce ‘range anxiety’, let alone the environmental impact of their production and disposal. At the same time, governments must ensure that the recharging infrastructure is in place to match its ambitions. It has just been announced, however, that the UK Department for Transport will double funding to £10m for the installation of charge points on residential streets from next year.

While petrol car sales have risen (2.2%), those of diesel declined by almost 22%, although this figure does not include hybrid-electric vehicles, or plug-in hybrids, that use petrol or diesel engines. Not helped by negative publicity and rising diesel taxes, it is certain that diesel sales have reduced overall, not helped also by a lack of clarity concerning clean air zones and it is starting to emerge that some schemes are not just anti-diesel but anti-car too.


Sales down but CO2 up

2019’s UK car registration figures reveal that the average UK new car fleet CO2 figures increased by almost 3%, which is ironic, considering the overall increase in BEVs and hybrid sales. The problem stems from the popularity of bulky and heavy SUVs, combined with an overall increase in petrol-powered vehicles. A number of manufacturers have attracted headlines by halting sales of diesel-engined cars altogether but it has to be noted many of those carmakers either bought-in diesel engines from elsewhere (such as Suzuki being supplied with engines from FIAT), or have a large presence outside Europe, where demand for diesel is negligible. Even so, some commentators have attributed the rise of CO2 as being due to a reduction in new diesel sales.


Clear as mud?

The overall conflicting and confusing messages are of no help to car buyers, who are trying to decide which vehicle is best for their needs and budgets. In the coming months in a series of technical blogs, GEM will demystify the various technologies and terminologies, from the basic Stop-Start through to Micro Hybrids and HEVs, to full BEVs, with the aim of providing some clarity to this complex, but confusing, topic.