UK Electric Car Sales in 2020

The UK Government's recent announcement to fast-track the ban of new petrol and diesel car sales from 2040 to 2035 is an exciting yet daunting prospect for the automotive industry.

15 years will fly by. Almost 15 years ago, Tesla Motors entered the automotive industry as a small Silicon Valley startup. They said they’d produce luxury electric sports cars with a range of over 200 miles. Look how far they’ve come in that short period of time!

With the imminent petrol and diesel ban, a rise in the manufacture and sale of battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) has inevitably followed. The demand for pure battery-powered electric vehicles is only going to accelerate over the coming years.

But just how popular have electric vehicles become in the UK already?

The number cruncher personal car leasing and business lease experts at Lease Fetcher have done some deep digging to analyse UK BEV and PHEV registration information provided by the SMMT and the Department for Transport. To mark the change, we’ve split this report into two sections:

  • Registrations over the last 12 months.
  • Registrations over the last 5 years.

Let's start by looking at some historical data about the development of the global EV market.

Overall BEV/PHEV Registrations in the Past 12 Months

Registration figures for the past 12 months of BEV and PHEVs can be used as a predictor of the pattern of potential future growth.

BEV Registrations

Between August 2019 and August 2020, the number of pure EV registrations has been pretty erratic month to month. Here are the need-to-know points:

  • Total BEV registrations: 68,312
  • Highest number of BEV registrations: March 2020 - 11,694
  • Lowest number of BEV registrations: April 2020 - 1,374

In August 2020, BEV registrations totalled 5,589 which shows a 32% decrease from the 8,162 registrations recorded in July 2020. In comparison to the previous year, BEV registrations in August 2020 increased by 78% compared to the 3,147 registered in August 2019.

March 2020 showed a marked jump in registrations. With the introduction of 0% company car tax on electric cars in 2020/21 (formerly the BiK tax rates were 16% for zero emission cars) registrations soared but the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily stopped the growth in its tracks. April 2020 shows an 88% decrease from March 2020.

June 2020 saw another surge in BEV sales where a total 8,903 BEVs were registered - the 2nd highest number of registrations over the 12 month period. The 267% increase in June saw the total number of registrations more than triple the 2,424 recorded in May 2020 - the second lowest number of registrations over the 12 month period.

The other period with a significant change was September 2019 where registrations totalled 7,704, more than doubling the 3,147 registrations in August 2019.

By October 2019, however, registrations dropped back down to 3,162, signalling a 59% decrease in just a month.

Despite a drop in registrations, BEV registrations composed 6.4% of all car registrations for August 2020 (compared to 4.7% the previous month and 3.4% in August 2019), showing that favour towards BEVs is still growing.

PHEV Registrations

Between August 2019 and August 2020, the number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle registrations followed a similar irregular pattern.

  • Total PHEV registrations: 47,926
  • Highest number of PHEV registrations: July 2020 - 7,447
  • Lowest number of PHEV registrations: April 2020 - 95

Over the period, 20,386 fewer PHEVs were registered than BEVs.

In August 2019, PHEV registrations totalled 977. By August 2020, this had risen to 2,922 - a 222% increase.

Despite the year-on-year rise for August, PHEV registrations plummeted from July 2020 to August 2020. July 2020 had the highest number of PHEV registrations throughout the period with 7,447 PHEVs being registered compared to the 2,922 recorded in August 2020 - a significant 61% decrease over a month period.

March 2020 had the second highest number of PHEV registrations throughout the period. 6,818 PHEVs were registered - a marked jump from the 2,058 in February 2020

The most significant drop in month-on-month PHEV registrations fell between March 2020 and April 2020. April recorded the lowest number of registrations at just 95 - a 99% decrease from the previous month. May 2020 was the second poorest month in terms of registrations with a total of 825.

The surge in registrations in September and March has a correlation with the arrival of new registration plates.

Looking at registrations for both categories, we can see that both are growing in popularity but BEVs are overtaking PHEV in terms of favour with the UK public in 2020:

  • BEV Market Share (YTD - August 2020): 4.9%
  • PHEV Market Share (YTD - August 2020): 3.3%

In a time where overall automotive purchases are declining, consumers who are still making purchases are not shying away from pure EV technology, and are favouring it more than middle-ground PHEV models.

The most recent quarter registrations of BEV/PHEVs (Q2 2020)

The last 12 months have shown an erratic pattern of growth but demonstrate an upwards trend nonetheless - how have we progressed in the second quarter of 2020?

Recent 2020 Q2 Vehicle Licensing Statistics data released by the Department of Transport has confirmed that 19,149 ultra low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) were registered for the first time in the UK - an increase of 30% on 2019 Q2. This reinforces the continuous growing demand for ULEVs despite Q2 being smack bang in the middle of a global pandemic.

BEV Registrations Q2 2020

SMMT data shows that for the most recent quarter (April 2020 to June 2020), BEV registrations are as follows:


  • 1,374 registrations
  • -9.7 % decrease from 2019
  • 31.8% market share


  • 2,424 registrations
  • +25.1% increase from 2019
  • 12.0% market share


  • 8,903 registrations
  • +261.8% increase from 2019
  • 6.1% market share

Total: 12,701

This is a significant jump from Q2 2019 where 5,968 registrations were recorded in total - a 112.8% increase. BEV registrations dropped 30.4% in Q2 compared to Q1 2020.

Additionally, the number of newly battery electric cars registered for the first time in 2020 Q2 more than doubled (up 103%) compared to 2019 Q2.

Q2 2020 BEV Registrations

PHEV Registrations Q2 2020

Q2 2020 registration data for PHEVs is as follows:


  • 95 registrations
  • -95.1% decrease from 2019
  • 2.2% market share


  • 825 registrations
  • -65.1% increase from 2019
  • 4.1% market share


  • 4,926 registrations
  • +117% increase in 2019
  • 3.4% market share

Total: 5,846

The 4,926 PHEV registrations recorded in June 2020 amounted to 84.3% of total Q2 2020 registrations.

These figures show a 10.8% decrease from Q2 2019 where 6,554 PHEVs were registered.

The total number of newly registered PHEVs also declined by 12% in 2020 Q2 compared to 2019 Q2.

Despite the global lockdown playing a role in the slowing of PHEV registrations, it is clearly evident that the coronavirus pandemic did not affect BEV registrations as much as it did PHEV registrations over Q2 2020.

Q2 2020 PHEV Registrations

4. Electric car sales by manufacturers and models in the past 12 months

The most reliable and up-to-date figures for the electric car registrations by model come from the DfT Vehicle Licensing Statistics data - the figures track January 2019 to December 2019.

The top 10 most popular, and arguably best electric cars are as follows:

  • Tesla Model 3 - 10,649
  • Nissan Leaf - 5,280
  • BMW I3 - 4,343
  • Jaguar I-PACE - 4,195
  • Volkswagen Golf - 3,835
  • Renault Zoe - 2,380
  • Tesla Model X - 1,284
  • Tesla Model S - 1,231
  • Kia Niro - 681
  • Hyundai Ioniq - 473

Unsurprisingly as an electric-only car manufacturer, Tesla is the most popular brand amongst UK consumers, taking top spot with the Tesla Model 3 and a further 2 spots with the Model S and Model X.

Car Sales by Manufacturer and Model

The Past 5 Years

So, a lot has changed in the electric automotive sector even in the past 12 months. How have EV and PHEV registrations fared over the past 5 years? In this section, we will look at:

  • Year by Year BEV/PHEV Car Registration Growth in the UK (2015-19)
  • BEV Registrations by Location for the Last 5 Years

5. Year by Year EV and PHEV Car Registration Growth in the UK (2015 - 19)

Year on year, sales of both PHEV and BEV registrations have increased.

BEV Registrations

  • 2015: 10,100 (0.4% market share)
  • 2016: 10,400 (0.4% market share)
  • 2017: 13,900 (0.5% market share)
  • 2018: 15,800 (0.7% market share)
  • 2019: 38,000 (1.6% market share)

The increase in the number of BEV registrations for 2019 is staggering - both the number of registrations and the market share have more than doubled.

BEV vs PHEV Total Sales (March 2019-2020)

PHEV Registrations

  • 2015: 17,400 (0.7% market share)
  • 2016: 26,600 (1.0% market share)
  • 2017: 32,700 (1.3% market share)
  • 2018: 42,200 (1.8% market share)
  • 2019: 35,100 (1.5% market share)

The rate of PHEV adoption has clearly been more rapid than BEV adoption until 2019. 2019 has marked a change in this pattern, showing the first recorded drop in yearly registrations for PHEVs.

6. BEV Registrations by Location

The pattern of growth for BEV registrations is different across UK regions. The most up-to-date information is provided by the Department for Transport. As of 2020 Q2 there were a total of 137,442 registered BEVs. See the breakdown by location below

  • England: 121,092 (88.1% of UK registrations)
  • Scotland: 9,131 (6.6% of UK registrations)
  • Wales: 3,638 (2.7% of UK registrations)
  • Northern Ireland: 1,720 (1.3% of UK registrations)
  • Vehicles under disposal: 1,846 (1.3% of UK registrations)
  • Region/County unknown: 15 (0.01% of UK registrations)

And within each country, the spread of registration varies even further.

In England, where the most BEVs are registered:

  • 1st Place: South East - 29,545 (24.4% of English registrations)
  • 2nd Place: London - 17,210 (14.2% of English registrations)
  • Last Place: North East - 2,714 (2.2% of English registrations)

In Scotland:

  • 1st Place: Renfrewshire - 1,148 (12.6% of Scottish registrations)
  • 2nd Place: Edinburgh City - 923 (10.1% of Scottish registrations)
  • Last Place: Shetland Islands - 26 (0.28% of Scottish registrations)

In Wales:

  • 1st Place: Swansea - 584 (16.1% of Welsh registrations)
  • 2nd Place: Rhonda Cynon Taf - 470 (12.9% of Welsh registrations)
  • Last Place: Blaenau Gwent - 25 (0.69% of Welsh registrations)

In Northern Ireland:

  • 1st Place: Belfast - 427 (24.8% of NI Registrations)
  • 2nd Place: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon - 190 (11% of NI Registrations)
  • Last Place: Fermanagh and Omagh - 58 (3.8% of NI Registrations)

BEV registration tends to concentrate in larger city areas and has not grown popular in less densely populated regions.

BEV Registrations by Location


Despite the slightly haphazard pattern of growth, BEV registrations have surged significantly in recent years. After recently leapfrogging PHEV sales in 2019, it seems that the consumer tide may finally be turning in the favour of BEVs.

This article will be used to showcase all future figures and stats from SMMT and the DfT and will be updated on a quarterly basis.