Charged up: Industry plea for urgent action on EV infrastructure as new car sales motor ahead

New car sales have risen for the fourth consecutive month with plug-in cars such as pure electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids accounting for more than a quarter of the market.

There were 142,889 new cars registered across the UK in November, up 23.5 per cent on the same month last year, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Overall, registrations last month were 8.8 per cent below pre-coronavirus levels.

The number of new cars registered during the first 11 months of this year is 3.4 per cent down on the same period in 2021. Supply shortages have largely been blamed for the decline - a situation that has also pushed up the price of used cars sharply. The SMMT is calling for urgent government action to boost electric car charging infrastructure and support the uptake of plug-in vehicles.

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Chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Recovery for Britain’s new car market is back within our grasp, energised by electrified vehicles and the sector's resilience in the face of supply and economic challenges. As the sector looks to ensure that growth is sustainable for the long term, urgent measures are required - not least a fair approach to driving EV adoption that recognises these vehicles remain more expensive, and measures to compel investment in a charging network that is built ahead of need. By doing so we can encourage consumer appetite across the country and accelerate the UK's journey to net zero.”

Registrations by large fleets are said to have “energised the market” last month, up 45.4 per cent compared with November 2021. Zero emission vehicle uptake continues to grow, with newly registered battery electric vehicles up 34.2 per cent to represent more than one in five new cars. The SMMT anticipates that more new cars will be sold in 2023 compared with this year, but expects demand to remain below pre-Covid levels.

James Fairclough, chief executive at AA Cars, said: “Four straight months of rising new vehicle registrations would be an achievement at any time, but with Britain sliding into recession it feels all the more impressive. After a painfully slow start to the year - when the sector was hamstrung by supply shortages - sales are ending the year strongly, with drivers’ surging demand for electric vehicles leading the way. Pure EVs now account for well over one in four new cars sold in the UK.”

He added: “For drivers with a finite budget, leasing a new car is becoming increasingly attractive, as the fixed monthly payments offer certainty and can also include other motoring costs such as breakdown cover and vehicle tax. Meanwhile a steady stream of drivers are opting to buy their next car second-hand, rather than new.”

Alex Buttle, co-founder of used car marketplace Motorway.co.uk, noted: “Despite the prospect of a bleak mid-winter, car buyers at large have not yet been put off buying a new car, with sales continuing to rise month-on-month versus the same time last year. EV sales continue to represent a significant proportion of these sales as consumers flock towards greener ways to drive ahead of the 2030 fossil fuel ban.”

The SMMT is calling for action to further boost electric car charging infrastructure and support the uptake of plug-in vehicles. Picture: Peter Devlin

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