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07/02/2019 News

The current state and growth of electric vehicles in the UK

Electric and Hybrid cars, vans and trucks


Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) such as battery electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are currently the focus of a global innovation drive, with governments, industry and the public viewing zero-emission vehicles are key to reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality.

AFVs aren’t new – in 1900, there were more electric vehicles on the roads than those with internal combustion engines (ICEs) – but up until recently have seen their uptake hampered by the limitations posed by poor battery performance and prohibitive costs.

Today, technological developments have propelled electric and hybrid vehicles to the cusp of private and commercial mass adoption, but what is the current state of electric vehicles in the UK, what does the future hold and how are Total facilitating the transition?


Electric and Hybrid cars, vans and trucks

Passenger electric vehicles – a leading market


The UK is a leader in AFV ownership. Over 150,000 are currently registered in the UK, and in 2018, Committee on Climate Change (CCC) figures showed the UK was ranked fourth in the world in AFV market share, with 1.7% of all vehicles sold in that year (47,250) being EVs or hybrids. Part of this was due to the choice of models available – between June 2017 and June 2018, the number of AFV models on sale by car companies operating in the UK jumped from 46 to 54.

Most electric vehicles currently have ranges between 100 and 200 miles, and although consumers are still widely anxious about the range of EVs, government figures show that the average UK household car mileage is 7,800 miles per year, or just 21.37 miles each day: well within current range values.

The future 

With government incentives such as the Plug-In Car Grant, Charging Infrastructure Fund and the council-led rollout of Clean Air Zones and pollution levies, the UK is ripe for EV expansion.
DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook 2018 forecasts that by 2033, half of all global vehicle sales will be electric, with Europe reaching this milestone slightly earlier in 2027. Emu Analytics figures note that by the early 2020s there will be 1 million EVs in the UK, with 9 million by 2030 – 25% of the overall parc – while the CCC recommends that to meet climate obligations, 60% of all new cars and vans should be electric by 2030.


Electric van

Commercial electric vehicles – plenty of potential


The UK is almost making strides with regards to commercial electric vehicles. Emu Analytics figures show London has the largest electric bus fleet in Europe, with 2,500 in operation by Transport for London – 25% of the authority’s total stock – and electric park and ride services are also spreading across the country. While positive, this does lag behind other countries, most notably China, who is taking huge strides in public transport electrification, replacing all 16,000 buses in Shenzhen with electric models last year.

While a study by Hitachi Digital in 2017 saw 62% of surveyed fleet professionals saying their fleets contained AFVs, commercial EVs are still in their infancy. To help ameliorate this, trials like Hitachi and UK Power Networks’ Optimise Prime project are investigating the steps required to facilitate change in the market, and there are positive signs abound – many health services are trialling electricity-powered ambulances and commercial EV models are being released by manufacturers.

The future 

DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook 2018 forecasts that, by 2047, half of the heavy vehicles on the world’s roads will be electrically driven, and that in Europe, 80% of buses will be electric by 2030. The benefits of this could be significant: Hitachi Capital research suggested that businesses could save £13.7 billion a year in fuel expenses if they switched to electric.


Plug-in AFV

Charging infrastructure – growing capacity 


CCC statistics note that in June 2018 there were 16,700 public charging stations available across the UK, up from 12,800 in June 2017, with 3,500 of these being rapid chargers.

Unfortunately, Zap Map figures cited by Emu Analytics show there are 43 vehicles for every rapid charging station in the country – the only viable option compared to petrol stations – ranging from 1.45 cars per charger in Newcastle to a 1 to 485 ratio in Peterborough. What’s more, EV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) numbers have caught up with the number of charging stations after lagging for much of the past decade, and over 18% of UK households have no parking; a key barrier to EV and PHEV uptake.

The future

It’s estimated by the CCC that the UK will require 1,200 rapid chargers near major roads by 2030, as well as 27,000 chargers regionally. Emu Analytics estimates differ; noting over 100,000 chargers will be needed by the early 2020s – a near-600% increase compared with current numbers. Government grant schemes are available, however, and businesses are moving into what will be a significant area of the future transportation business.


Formula E

How Total is supporting the EV landscape

With a growing AFV market and the great need for growth, the UK is at the forefront of electrification development; one of the reasons Total has developed a wide range of products and services to help individuals and businesses make the switch.


Total’s QUARTZ EV fluid range of lubricants and coolants is optimised for passenger electric and hybrid vehicles, prolonging the life of components and helping AFVs perform efficiently. Innovative TOTAL RUBIA EV fluids cover commercial AFVs, including vans, HGVs and buses, providing exceptional heavy-duty performance. Find out more.

Total Charge Stations with ChargePoint

Working alongside ChargePoint, the world’s leading AFV charge station network, Total Charge Stations is working to dramatically increase the number of charge points across the UK. Learn more about the partnership in our recent blog.

AFVs have the potential to transform the UK’s transport networks for the better. Contact our team to find out how we can help you take advantage of and succeed in the country’s electric future.