Britons Switching to Electric with More than One Million EVs Now on the Road

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UK drivers also went on lockdown and the roads were almost empty. Now that things are slowly going back to normal, Britons are also back in the driver’s seats, filling up UK roads. 

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders or SMMT, there was a significant increase in the number of vehicles on UK roads last year. More specifically, records showed an increase of 124,393 units, which brings the total to over 35 million. Overall, Britons now have over 40 million vehicles in use throughout the UK. These are numbers that the automotive industry hasn’t seen since 2019 before the pandemic forced the world into lockdown.

Even if the volume of vehicles on UK roads has increased, the SMMT reported a 1.6% drop in carbon dioxide (CO2), a major contributor to climate change. Reports also revealed that with one in 32 plug-in vehicles traversing UK roads, the number of cars with plugs increased to over 1 million.

Of the total amount, 652,341 were battery-powered EVs and 436,900 were plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Additionally, the number of electric commercial vehicle owners went up by around 67.3% while the amount of zero-emission trucks has tripled since 2022. 

Furthermore, by the end of April 2023, the approximate number of plug-in vehicles was at 1,250,500, 490,000 of which were registered plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs while 760,000 were battery-powered EVs.

These numbers signify that even if UK roads are filling up with vehicles once again, it’s not as threatening to the environment because of lesser CO2 emissions. 

Despite the good news, however, authorities are still trying to figure out how to fast-track the roll-out of public chargepoints. As of January 2023, the Department for Transport (DfT) counted a total of 30,168 fast/slow chargers. The SMMT also stressed the fact that the majority of the existing chargepoints are not the right size or not in ideal locations. 

There is also a need to install charging points for HGVs or heavy goods vehicles.

SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, is confident that the UK is headed for a zero-emissions future but he’s also excited about future investments, models, and technologies that can help fast-track Britain’s shift to electric vehicles. 

Aside from reporting on the increase of vehicles on UK roads, SMMT also listed the top 10 vehicles of 2022. The Ford Fiesta topped the list with 1,516,560 registered cars on UK roads. Completing the list are (in order):

  • Ford Focus – 1,090,777
  • Vauxhall Corsa – 1,064,577
  • Volkswagen Golf – 1,020,101
  • Vauxhall Astra – 762,609
  • Volkswagen Polo – 709,197
  • MINI – 698,308
  • Nissan Qashqai – 637,764
  • BMW 3 Series – 528,601
  • Toyota Yaris – 520,207

Some of the vehicles in the list are involved in the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal.

What happened during the diesel emissions scandal?

The Volkswagen Group was accused of tampering with emissions using illegal defeat devices. US authorities sent the carmaker a Notice of Violation in September 2015 after cheat software was allegedly discovered in VW and Audi diesel vehicles. These devices hide real emissions during regulatory testing. 

A defeat device installed in a diesel vehicle can immediately sense when testing is about to start. When this happens, the device reduces emissions to within the legal limits. Thus, in the lab during testing, the vehicle is emissions-compliant. However, this is only temporary.

Once the vehicle is driven around real roads, it goes back to releasing dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide or NOx, a group of gases that includes NO2 or nitrogen dioxide and NO or nitric oxide. Exposure to NOx emissions can cause life-changing health conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and premature death. 

Authorities believe that Volkswagen lied to their customers. Vehicles with defeat devices were marketed and sold as high-performing and environmentally safe. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CARB (California Air Resources Board) ordered the carmaker to recall the thousands of affected vehicles. VW was also required to pay fines, which have totalled billions over the years.

Other carmakers were soon implicated in the scandal. Mercedes-Benz, another German carmaker received the same Notice of Violation from US authorities. BMW, Vauxhall, Renault, and Nissan are also on the list of alleged emissions regulations violators. The list of carmakers is long, especially since one or two are added now and then.

Environmental campaigners and authorities encourage affected drivers to hold their carmakers responsible for the damaging effects of NOx emissions. Legal firms across the UK have been helping the drivers work on their diesel claims. Thousands have joined group litigations against their carmakers. A successful diesel claim will compensate car owners according to the gravity of their case.

Should I file my diesel claim now?

The best time to file a diesel claim is now. However, you’ll want to work with an emissions expert if you want to increase your chances of winning the claim. You’ll also have to decide if you’ll file a single case or opt for group litigation.

Archer Luis

The author Archer Luis