New EV sales soar in October

SMMT figures for October 2020 show significant growth for the UK's new electric car market

Sales of electric vehicles continue to go from strength to strength in what has been a turbulent year for the UK’s new car market. The latest figures from the SMMT for October 2020 show registrations of pure-electric models were almost three times that of last year’s statistics.

With 9,335 new pure-electric cars registered in October 2020, the figure is 195% up on the same month in 2019. It’s a trend for the plug-in car market as a whole, with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) up 149% compared to 2019, with 7,775 units registered.


Combined, the 17,110 plug-in cars sold represented 12.1% of all new cars registered in October 2020, the third highest market share on record, with the split at 6.6% total share for pure-EVs and 55% for PHEVs.

Apart from mild hybrids, nothing can come close to the growth of electric vehicles in October, and that category has seen such an increase as there were very few registered last year, and manufacturers are rolling the technology out to replace conventional petrol and diesel engines.

With an overall drop of 1.6% compared to last year, October has proved to be relatively successful for the UK’s new car industry against a backdrop of lockdowns in certain parts of the UK and impending lockdowns in others. General consumer uncertainty due to Covid-19 and the country’s economic situation mean that what is effectively a flat month can be seen as a benefit.

However, sales of conventional petrol and diesel models continue to drop, both in October’s figures and 2020’s to date. Petrol sales fell 21% and diesel 38% against October last year, and even incorporating the mild hybrid figures into conventional petrol and diesel registrations sees the fuel types down on 2019.


Fortunately, the rise of electric and electrified registrations has largely off-set those drops in sales, a story that is now familiar throughout 2020. With diesel sales down 55% for the first 10 months of 2020, and petrol down 39%, it’s a trend that shows little sign of slowing down.

Of course, with the nationwide lockdown and worldwide impact of Covid-19, significant drops in sales are both expected and explainable. It is when those figures are compared to those of electric vehicles though that the true story is presented. 2020 year-to-date sees pure-EVs up 169% and PHEVs up 92%. 

Hybrids, mild diesel hybrids, and mild petrol hybrids are up 11%, 97%, and 172% respectively, so demand for electrified cars - and in particular plug-in cars - is clear. If anything, it has increased since spring’s lockdown. That’s all against a total new car registrations figure for 2020 YTD that’s down 31% compared to 2019.

Total electric vehicle sales in the UK now stand at more than 390,000 units, split between more than 173,000 pure-electric and almost 217,000 PHEVs.