The UK went crazy for electric vehicles and hybrids in 2015

Last year, the UK bought twice as many sustainable vehicles as the year before

2015 was a big year for electric and hybrid cars and now we have the stats to prove it. New figures released by Go Ultra Low show that 28,000 ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) were registered last year – more than the combined total of the previous five years. What’s more, the growth of plug-in hybrids in 2015 was almost double what it was the previous year, with 14,532 sold. That's a 94% increase on 2014.  

“The UK has one of the fastest growing ultra-low emission vehicle markets in the world and these record figures show more and more people across the country are enjoying the benefits of this cheap-to-run and green technology,” said transport minister Andrew Jones. “British drivers have a wider choice of vehicles than ever before and we have increased our support for plug-in vehicles to £600 million over the next five years to cut emissions, create jobs and support our cutting-edge industries.”

So what’s driving the growth? Although Jones may credit the increase to government incentives, much of it is down to the car manufacturers themselves. There are now around 30 sustainable vehicles available in the UK, with more on the way.

The hybrid EV split

Hybrid vehicles have proved to be a popular stepping-stone for environmentally conscious consumers who aren’t quite ready for a fully electric vehicle. Last year, plug-in hybrid vehicles were the most widespread type of ULEV sold, with 18,254 registrations – a 137% increase on 2014.

Fully electric vehicle sales also increased, going up by 48% with 9,934 registrations, and that’s arguably the most important statistic. In the last year, EVs have come of age, with new refined versions of the Nissan Leaf and Renault ZOE demonstrating that electric vehicles can be affordable, sophisticated and sustainable.

At the same time, high-end cars such as the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S have become more commonplace, demonstrating growth at both ends of the price range. However, figures show that the majority of purchases came from South East England, suggesting that a disproportionate amount of customers live around London. While that’s still positive, it shows that owners are grouped around cities, meaning issues such as range and charging availability are still worries. If sustainable transport is to truly take off, we’ll need to see the rest of the country improve its charging infrastructure.

As for the future? I predict we’ll continue to see exponential growth in 2016. Electric vehicles and hybrids are no longer a niche cornered by Tesla and Toyota. Every major manufacturer has a sustainable roadmap, and that means there’ll be more ULEVs to choose from in 2016. With the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, and ULEVs from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes in the pipeline, this year will be crucial for sustainable transport.

Read next: Tesla Model 3 could debut at Geneva Motor Show

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