The increases mean that almost exactly half of all BEVs in the UK – 86,130 vehicles – were licensed by private individuals as of the end of the third quarter of 2020, with the remainder of 86,387 vehicles licensed by companies. This is a one-and-a-half fold (150%) increase compared to a year earlier, a clear indication of the rising popularity of electric vehicles.
Four of the top 10 local authority areas with the greatest number of privately licensed BEVs are in London, with Barnet having the most (1,235 vehicles). Wiltshire has the second-highest number (1,075 vehicles), followed by Westminster (919 vehicles), Cornwall (899 vehicles) and Camden (781 vehicles). Conversely, the smallest numbers of privately run BEVs, aside from those on some island communities and the square mile that is the City of London, are to be found in South Wales – in Merthyr Tydfil (21 vehicles) and Blaenau Gwent (27 vehicles).
When it comes to the areas seeing the fastest growth in privately registered battery electric vehicles, the top two authorities are in London – Barking and Dagenham, and Waltham Forest – both of which have seen numbers double in the space of 12 months (from 52 in 2019 to 112 in 2020, and 89 to 179 respectively). Growth outside the capital is spread widely, with parts of Derbyshire, Cumbria, south west Wales and Sussex all recording significant increases, albeit starting from small bases.
At the other end of the scale, growth of battery electric vehicles was slowest in parts of Northern Ireland, Gateshead, Sunderland and the Orkney Islands. Only the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, recorded a drop in licensed BEVs between 2019 and 2020, down from 28 to 25.
Overall, 87.3% of all battery electric vehicles licensed by private individuals were in England as of September 2020, almost unchanged (up 0.3%) compared to a year earlier. Scotland has the next biggest proportion (8.2%, up from 8.1%) followed by Wales (3.0%, down from 3.1%) and Northern Ireland (1.4%, down from 1.8%).
Says RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis:
“While starting from very small beginnings when you consider there are around 32m cars licensed for use in the entire United Kingdom, the growth in pure electric vehicles is extremely promising. There is a long way to go, not least as only half of these vehicles are in private hands, compared to nine-in-10 of all cars, but it’s clear that the numbers are only going one way.
“The biggest annual rise in the numbers of vehicles are among those licensed by companies, which suggests the clear tax benefits given to company car drivers are beginning to stoke demand. It’s vital this continues, as in many cases the new company vehicles of today will be the ones appearing on the second-hand consumer market in three or more years from now.”
Recent RAC research shows a growing number of UK drivers are planning on switching to an electric vehicle next time they change their cars – up from 3% in 2018 to 9% in 2020. But despite this, most (78%) still think that pure electric cars are too expensive compared to conventionally fuelled vehicles, prompting around half (53%) to say they’d like to see VAT on new electric cars either being cut or abolished entirely.