UK has reached 1 million BEVs, but incentives still recommended: SMMT

Credit: Tesla

The United Kingdom (UK) has surpassed an important milestone for battery-electric vehicle (BEV) sales, now reaching over one million BEVs on the country’s roads. Despite this, some say that incentives are still needed to help accelerate the transition to zero-tailpipe emission cars, including the passage of BEV incentives for consumers.

The UK surpassed one million BEVs on its roads in January, according to the industry organization the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in a report shared on Monday. The accomplishment comes without any government incentives for consumers, though the group notes that lowering value-added taxes (VAT) on BEV purchases could help reach decarbonization goals even more quickly, helping to drive sales up for the individual consumer.

“It’s taken just over 20 years to reach our million EV milestone – but with the right policies, we can double down on that success in just another two,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT CEO. “Market growth is currently dependent on businesses and fleets.”

The report notes that the new car market as a whole grew 8.2 percent in January, with a total of 142,876 vehicles registered. BEVs made up 20,935 of those, representing a 21 percent increase year over year. In addition, the report forecasts that BEVs could make up one out of every five car purchases in 2024, and the organization says that total BEVs could be increased to two million in just two years—if the government embraces incentives in its upcoming budget.

“Government must therefore use the upcoming Budget to support private EV buyers, temporarily halving VAT to cut carbon, drive economic growth and help everyone make the switch,” Hawes added. “Manufacturers have been asked to supply the vehicles, we now ask government to help consumers buy the vehicles on which net zero depends.”

The group says that cutting the VAT on new BEVs would cost the Treasury £1,125 (~$1,410) per car, which it says is less than that of a previous plug-in car grant. Along with being more affordable than that grant, the organization says that it would put over a quarter of a million additional BEVs on the road by 2026, along with those already expected to sell. This would result in a reduction of more than five million tonnes of CO2 in that time, putting the country on track to reach two million BEVs in the next two years.

The next UK parliament budget is set to take effect on March 6.

According to the organization’s data by brand, Tesla’s vehicles made up 1.11 percent of the overall market share, regardless of powertrain, marking an increase from the 0.44 percent in January 2023. The Tesla Model Y has led BEV adoption in the UK and much of the world, with the automaker topping the UK’s most popular EV list for the fifth year in a row in 2023.

In September, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delayed bans on gas cars to 2035, after the country had originally set this goal for 2030. Along with the call for increased incentives from the SMMT, automakers such as Tesla, Ford and Volkswagen have called for stricter zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) standards, while others have requested further delays to gas car sales bans.

Tesla outsells Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz & Nissan in the UK

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UK has reached 1 million BEVs, but incentives still recommended: SMMT
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