UK sales of electric cars hit record high despite supply chain disruptions

Sales of electric vehicles in the UK have hit a record high, although supply chain disruption has pushed overall new car sales to their lowest level in 30 years.

More than 1.6m new cars were sold in the UK last year, down 2% from 2021, and the lowest level since 1992, according to the annual sales snapshot of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, the UK car industry received a boost as car owners continued to switch from petrol and diesel in greater numbers in favor of battery electric vehicles.

Sales of electric vehicles reached their biggest ever monthly market share in December, accounting for nearly a third of all new cars sold. During 2022, electric cars will represent about 17% of sales, surpassing sales of new diesel cars for the first time.

Tesla was the standout electric performer, and the US company’s Model Y was the best-selling electric vehicle and climbed to third place in the UK’s top 10 bestseller list.

Fleet and business buyers were responsible for a large share of electric car sales, representing two-thirds (66.7%) of all registrations.

Total sales of new cars began in the second half of the year, when they increased for five consecutive months from August.

The SMMT found that new car sales registered an 18% increase in December to nearly 128,000 registrations, although this was still not enough to offset the decline seen during the first six months of 2022.

Disruptions to global supply chains and continued shortages of critical semiconductor chips, sparked by the pandemic and exacerbated by Covid restrictions in China, continue to affect carmakers as they did in 2021.

As a result, total UK car industry sales for the year were down from the previous year’s level, with 700,000 fewer new cars sold than in 2019.

Mike Haus, SMMT chief executive, said a short supply of the chips – used in everything from windscreen wipers to entertainment systems – had created long waiting lists at carmakers, as drivers sometimes received some models. Waited over 12 months to do it.

“Manufacturers have really struggled to be able to make vehicles in sufficient quantities, mainly because of semiconductor shortages, but also because of shortages across a range of other parts,” Haus said.

“Higher logistics costs, more pressure on raw materials, complexities of global manufacturing have really taken a toll on the industry this past year.”

However, Hayes said that these pressures are starting to subside, and SMMT is predicting 2023 to be “the year of recovery”.

The industry body is forecasting new car sales growth of 15% this year, as manufacturers work to bring down waiting lists despite an expected economic downturn.

“We are aware that demand may fall somewhat as the UK goes into recession, but there is a buffer,” Hawes said.

Despite the growing number of electric cars being sold, Hawes said “charging concerns” remain a major concern for potential buyers, preventing some drivers from making the switch.

British companies installed a record number of public electric car chargers last year, competing for a foothold in a fast-growing and lucrative market. This brings the total available to more than 37,000, according to data company Zap-Map.

Boris Johnson’s government estimates there will be a need for 300,000 publicly available chargers by 2030, when the sale of new pure petrol or diesel cars is banned.

To meet this target, 100 new chargers will have to be installed every day; However, the SMMT said the current rate is around 23 days.

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