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More alternatively fuelled cars registered in 2020 than diesels

Sales of greener new cars boomed in 2020 despite the overall challenges for the new car market in the pandemic.

A total of 338,000 alternatively fuelled cars were registered for the first time in the UK during 2020, up 87% year-on-year and including 107,000 fully electric cars

Newly published vehicle licensing stats from the Department for Transport show that a total of 338,000 alternatively fuelled cars were registered for the first time in the UK during 2020, up 87% year-on-year. This included 164,000 hybrids, 107,000 fully electric vehicles and 67,000 plug-in hybrids, and compares to 295,000 diesel cars.

The data also revealed that registrations of ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEVs) – classed as lower than 75g/km – rose by 125% during 2020 compared to the year before, reaching a total of 179,000 newly registered cars. ULEVs made up 8.5% of all new registrations in 2020.

The figures confirm the SMMT’s new registration data published in January in showing how the ‘EV revolution’ is gathering pace.

The growing popularity of greener cars was in contrast to total vehicle registrations, which fell 27% in 2020 compared to 2019, while diesel vehicles were down 51%.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “With ever-more electrified models available, it’s looking increasingly likely that sales of diesel cars may now never recover to previous levels, which will help improve the air quality in towns and cities.”

And the DfT data also reveals that 2020 was a bumper year for registrations of new motorcycles and other two-wheelers such as mopeds and scooters. Despite the pandemic, the second half of the year saw the highest number of new registrations of these since 2016 and meant overall 2020 sales fell by just 5% year-on-year, compared to car sales which fell by 29%.

The RAC’s Rod Dennis said: “It seems Covid and the decline in public transport use have encouraged many more people to think about how they get around. It could also mean some have switched to motorcycles and mopeds as an alternative to a second car.”

The data also reveals average emissions by fuel type. Overall for 2020, new petrol cars had WLTP-rated emissions of 149.0g/km, a decrease of 4.1% compared to 2019, whereas new diesel cars had emissions of 165.5g/km, down 0.4%. Petrol hybrids were rated at 125.6g/km under WLTP in 2020, actually up 2.7% compared to 2019, whereas new petrol PHEV cars had emissions of 43.4g/km, a decrease of 22.1%.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news.

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