The UK registered 125% more EVs in 2020 than 2019 – but it has a long way to go

New data from the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) reflects which parts of the UK are adopting electric vehicles the quickest, and it’s not London or its southeastern suburbs. And while there’s been a big jump in just a year, the mountain Britain has to climb to reach its 2030 target is still high.

UK EV growth

In 2020, more than twice the amount of people in the UK (181,090) registered an electric vehicle compared to 2019 (80,578). Between 2018 and 2019, the uptake of electric vehicles had only increased by 26%, but by the end of 2020, that figure stood at 125%.

In 2019, Yorkshire registered the most EVs compared to 2018, closely followed by London. In 2020, the northwest and southwest regions of the UK have adopted electric cars faster than any other regions, with an increase of 293% and 237%, respectively, compared to 2019. The southwest, which saw the slowest uptake in 2019, has shot to the top of the list by registering the third-highest number of any region in 2020 and now has the second most EVs in the UK in total.

Region201820192018-2019 % Increase20202019-2020 % Increase
East Midlands3,1553,70117%7,18194%
West Midlands9,30712,53035%20,08860%

In February 2020, as Electrek reported, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced that a ban in the UK on selling diesel and petrol cars would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035. And in November 2020, the deadline was moved forward yet again to 2030. The new ban includes hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

But a report by the National Audit Office in February 2021 stated that sales of electric cars and the installation of public charging points wasn’t fast enough to meet the 2035 target. The UK will need 400,000 public chargers by 2030, up from around 41,000 public connectors currently.

On May 21, the Guardian reported that 1 in 4 UK households intend to buy an electric car in the next five years:

More than 6.5 million households plan to buy an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, research by the energy watchdog Ofgem has found. This equates to 24%, or nearly one in four, of all energy households.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s chief executive, said: ‘As more consumers make the switch to electric vehicles in the next five years, Ofgem will be announcing millions of pounds of investment to create a more flexible energy system to support the electrification of vehicles, renewable generation and low carbon forms of heat.’

Electrek’s Take

The UK has set an admirable but difficult 2030 target, so it’s good news that Ofgem is willing to help facilitate the transition. There is still a lot of resistance, with nearly 40% of UK residents saying they won’t buy electric in the next five years, citing such concerns as the cost of electric cars, range anxiety, and a shortage of charging stations near their homes.

Both the public and private sectors need to ramp up an awful lot of good communication, combined with incentives to make electric cars more affordable, to help Britain’s public buy into electric.

UK gas prices are already high. If Brits see that range anxiety isn’t an issue, and there are affordable cars on the market, they will switch more easily than, say, Americans, who not only take cheap gas for granted but also see it as their right. Oh, and maybe not 20% VAT on public charging.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.