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Record-breaking year for plug-in cars

row of electric cars outside houses of parliament

Plug-in vehicle registrations reached a record high in 2015 as 28,188 new ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) arrived on UK roads – more than the past five years’ totals rolled into one.

The switch to electric power marked a 94% annual rise compared to the previous year.

Analysis by Government and motor-industry-backed Go Ultra Low reveals that ULEV registrations for 2015 eclipse the 21,486 total of plug-in vehicles sold between 2010 and 2014.

Fuelling the demand is a greater choice of models, with 30 pure electric or plug-in hybrid cars now available in the UK, ranging from high-performance sports cars to capable family run-arounds, and more are on the way in 2016.

Last year, the plug-in hybrid vehicles proved most popular among motorists, with 18,254 registrations, a 137% increase on 2014. Fully electric vehicle sales increased 48%, recording 9,934 registrations.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP said: "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.

"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.”

Local trends                                                                       

With 9,186 ULEVs registered, the South East of England proved to be the region that saw the most new electric cars, each enjoying assistance from Government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG). The next biggest regions taking advantage of the contributory funding were the South West ranked second (4,420) and the West Midlands third (3,371).

Every region of the United Kingdom recorded improved year-on-year registrations for plug-in hybrid cars, while almost all areas of the country experienced growth in pure electric car registrations.

Plug-in bestsellers

The top three bestselling EVs make up just over a third of all plug-in sales, demonstrating how there is a plug-in vehicle for every occasion. From sports cars to family-orientated SUVs, there are 27 other plug-in cars for drivers to choose from.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV rules registrations for the second year running, 118% up on the previous year’s figures. The top three is intact without change as the Nissan LEAF ranks second with a 29% hike in uptake while the BMW i3 continues to enjoy popularity among motorists, coming third once more with registrations 59% up year-on-year.

Future market

Government anticipates that 5% of new car registrations (around 100,000 units) will be ultra-low emission by 2020 – an expectation that appears on track in light of recent growth. As more motorists look to manage running costs, a money-saving end goal could be providing the momentum for the surge in electric vehicle popularity.

UK top-ranked ultra-low emission cars for full year 2015


Ultra low emission vehicle

2015 registrations

2014 registrations

Year-on-year growth


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV





Nissan LEAF





BMW i3





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