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Growth in sales of new electric cars stalled slightly in 2023, leading to calls in the industry to halve VAT rates to encourage demand.

However, the introduction of the government’s zero emission vehicle mandate this week, which provides rewards to manufacturers to produce more electric cars, is expected to boost the market in 2024.

Figures out today from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) paint a generally rosy picture for sales of electric vehicles. Registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) – those powered solely by batteries – rose to just under 315,000 during 2023, from slightly under 267,000 the previous year.

However, with overall car registrations soaring by almost 18% to 1.9 million, BEVs made up a slightly smaller proportion of the overall market, dropping from 16.6% to 16.5%.

Data consultancy New AutoMotive is also predicting that there will be more than a million electric cars on UK roads for the first time by the end of this month.

The SMMT expects BEVs to take a 22.3% share of a 1.97 million new car market in 2024, equivalent to 439,000 BEV registrations.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, says: “With vehicle supply challenges fading, the new car market is building back with the best year since the pandemic. Energised by fleet investment, particularly in the latest electric vehicles, the challenge for 2024 is to deliver a green recovery. Government has challenged the UK automotive sector with the world’s boldest transition timeline and is investing to ensure we are a major maker of electric vehicles.”

Levent Ergin, global chief ESG sustainability strategist at data software company Informatica, describes the impact of BEV registrations in 2023 as “muted”, but adds: “2024 will now be pivotal for the automotive industry and all eyes will be on whether BEV adoption rates remain stable.

“The recent agreement with the EU to postpone the imposition of 10% tariffs on EVs will likely have a positive impact as we head into the new year – and we could see this translate into an increase in EV registrations over the coming months.”

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