UK EV sales triple as shift to electrification charges ahead

06 July 2021 3 min. read
More news on

Almost one-in-10 new vehicles in the UK are now electric vehicles, according to a new report. At the same time though, Britain’s uptake of the new technology may soon fall behind other markets, as UK drivers’ interest in purchasing an electric vehicle as a next car is below the global average.

Mounting evidence suggests electric vehicles are set to become “so normalised in the coming decade” that most consumers will drop the word ‘electric’ from conversations involving them. According to one recent study, the number of consumers willing to consider electric vehicles for their next automotive purpose has ballooned by more than 80% in six leading economies, before 2020.

Now, new analysis from Roland Berger has further suggested that the shift to electrification is heating up, with a detailed survey of 18,000 car users across 18 national markets showing that electric vehicle (EV) sales have almost doubled in the space of one year. Meanwhile, a poll of drivers in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, UAE, UK and the US revealed that the UK is one of the most advanced EV markets.

"Even though the economic environment remains tense in the pandemic, it is evident that the automotive industry continues to focus on innovation," said Wolfgang Bernhart, Partner at Roland Berger. "The four big trends – new mobility, autonomous driving, digitalisation and electrification – continue to shape the market."

Roland Berger’s researchers discovered that 9.1% of all new car sales in the UK were EVs in 2020, up from 2.9% in 2019. This represents much faster growth than the global average, which grew from 2.9% to 4.7% in the same period.

This placed the UK on fairly level footing with France, Belgium and Germany, which were only slightly ahead of British EV uptake. However, the market leaders remain the Netherlands – where the proportion of EV sales grew more than 9 percentage points in the last year to hit 22.2% – and Sweden, where close to one-third of all new vehicles are EVs.

With that being said, in the future the appetite for EVs in the UK may well be falling behind the global average. Around 40% of consumers yet to buy an EV in the UK say they would consider a battery electric car for their next purchase, compared to a global portion of 55%.

In this context, sales of EVs in China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the UAE all look set to leapfrog the UK market in the coming years. More than three-quarters of consumers in each of those countries would think about going electric when they next purchase a vehicle.  Meanwhile, even the US – which has traditionally been resistant to electrified transport – has a higher portion of consumers apparently weighing up an EV that the UK, at 45%.

At the same time, EV interest in the world’s largest automotive markets, such as the US, looks set to grow even faster in the near future with the news traditional industry players are looking to tap into the segment. For example, in November 2020, General Motors announced its strategy for an all-electric future, committing to 30 new EV models by 2025. The US company plans to invest more than $27 billion in EV and autonomous vehicle product development between 2020 and 2025 to make this happen – more than its planned spend on gasoline and diesel products.