The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many aspects of our daily lives into turmoil. Restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the virus were introduced in mid-March, including a ban on all non-essential travel, so there hasn’t been much scope for using the car.
Understandably, the appetite for buying big ticket items such as new cars takes a hit in times of uncertainty. March is typically seen as one of the UK’s busiest months in the automotive calendar, ushering in the bi-annual ‘plate change’. This year, however, new car registrations fell dramatically by 44.4% compared to 2019. That’s a significant and difficult adjustment for the industry, representing 203,370 fewer cars registered in the month of March.
With lockdown initiatives continuing into May, it’s likely that we’ll see those figures get worse before they get better, but they will get better.
While news of the virus-related slump in March may have dominated, it did disguise a first quarter that provided encouragement for electric vehicles and the UK’s broader commitment to achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To date, 31,918* electric vehicles (EVs here include both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles) have been registered in 2020. That’s the highest number of EV registrations for any quarter since Go Ultra Low records began in 2014.
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) alone have experienced growth of 204.4% year on year (18,256 units vs 5,997), which equates to a market share of 3.8% compared to 0.9% in the same period last year. Granted, we still need to expand market interest into the double-digits, but electric vehicles are reaching a critical point of maturity to help us achieve just that.
“Coronavirus has had an undeniable impact on the car market, and the UK is not alone in feeling this,” said Poppy Welch, Head of Go Ultra Low. “However, amongst this current uncertainty, it is encouraging to see EV registrations continue to increase in both volume and market share. Consumers can now choose from a broad selection of vehicles, access ongoing government support and benefit from the continued investment and expansion of our UK charging infrastructure.”
Another unforeseen outcome of the temporary restrictions placed on travel has been a significant decline in both carbon emissions and air pollution in our cities. Road transport accounts for 29% of the UK’s total energy consumption and is responsible for 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions**, so the pattern of cause and effect has been clear for all to see.
It would be premature to make any grand predictions about the future, but I wonder if this time in isolation has given us time to reconsider our relationships with people and the world around us. Will we continue to look out for our more vulnerable neighbours? Will we think twice about driving somewhere when a meeting on Zoom could suffice? Will we fight harder for a greener, cleaner and healthier future? Just as we rethink these daily interactions, perhaps going electric could offer a new way for us to think about cars.
Jon Quirk – Go Ultra Low
Get in touch with Jon: @Jon_Quirk
**Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Table TSGB0302 / Table ENV0201 2018
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