Drop in consumers buying electric cars as new number plate released

The UK government has announced it is temporarily reintroducing the Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) due to the continuing delays in manufacturing supply chains, including the conflict in Ukraine and the global semiconductor shortage.

The UK car industry has hit out over a lack of incentives for households to purchase a new electric car after sales dipped among private buyers last month.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported a 21% lift in new car sales generally during September compared with the same month last year.

It said that 272,610 vehicles were snapped up in total, with the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Puma leading the way in terms of the most popular models.

Demand is usually spurred during September as it marks the dawn of a new registration plate – 73 in this case.

But the body said that the overall lift in performance was largely driven by fleet sales rather than demand among consumers.

The SMMT reported that 150,000 of the total sold were bought by businesses, with private sales of almost 123,000.

While diesel demand continued to decline, falling below 10,000, more than 105,000 were pure petrol-powered models.

The SMMT reported that about 45,000 battery electric vehicles (BEV) and petrol hybrids were sold.

But the body added: “BEV volume increases were driven entirely by fleet purchases, which rose by 50.6% as buyers were drawn to the advanced technology, outstanding performance, reduced environmental impact and compelling tax incentives.

“Conversely, private BEV registrations fell 14.3%, with less than one in 10 private new car buyers opting for electric during the month.

“Such a decline underlines the importance of providing these motorists with purchase incentives and other mechanisms to stimulate demand, it said.

The SMMT had raised fears of a hit to demand for electric cars a fortnight ago, after the government delayed the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by five years.

It argued that the decision undermined the investment placed in the battle against climate change by the car industry.

The policy U-turn was blamed by Rishi Sunak on the financial burden facing motorists in the transition to electric vehicles.

Concerns include not only the cost of an electric vehicle versus a conventionally powered car, but also the cost of the infrastructure needed to support the new era.

A so-called zero-emissions mandate released by the government last week requires a gradual shift to no emission cars by 2035.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “A bumper September means the new car market remains strong despite economic challenges.

“However, with tougher EV targets for manufacturers coming into force next year, we need to accelerate the transition, encouraging all motorists to make the switch.

“This means adding carrots to the stick – creating private purchase incentives aligned with business benefits, equalising on-street charging VAT with off-street domestic rates and mandating chargepoint rollout in line with how electric vehicle sales are now to be dictated.

“The forthcoming autumn statement is the perfect opportunity to create the conditions that will deliver the zero emission mobility essential to our shared net zero ambition.”