For the first time ever, sales of electric cars are forecast to exceed those of diesel ones in the UK next year, thanks to a fall in up-front prices and improvements in public charging infrastructure



Technology



5 November 2021

A Nissan production line in Sunderland, UK

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

More electric cars are expected to be sold in the UK than diesel models next year, in what experts say will be a “watershed moment”.

Fully electric battery cars have already outsold diesel cars for several months this year, but 2022 is now projected to be the first time it happens across a year.

A total of 260,000 electric cars are expected to be sold in 2022 versus 221,000 diesel models, according to figures published yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK automotive trade body. The figures do not include hybrid models.

“It’s brilliant. I think it is a watershed moment in terms of EVs [electric vehicles] finally coming in from the cold and being a mainstream solution for people,” says David Bailey at the University of Birmingham, UK.

He says the surge is being driven by a “massive” new range of vehicles, a fall in up-front prices and improvements in both battery range and public charging infrastructure.

Electric vehicles are seen as critical for meeting air pollution and climate change goals, such as those being discussed at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, this week.

The SMMT figures also show that nearly 10 per cent of new car sales so far this year are for electric models, up from 5.5 per cent last year. “We are seeing rapid uptake. It wasn’t long ago we saw 2 per cent. We are going to see a tipping point around the middle of this decade where EVs outcompete the internal combustion engine: it will be cheaper, full stop,” says Bailey.

While electric car sales are anticipated to overtake diesels next year, Bailey says he expects they won’t accelerate past petrol cars until around 2024. Beyond 2025, he says: “I can’t really see any good reason to buy a petrol car.” The UK government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

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