Almost 500,000 new hybrid and electric cars will be seen on UK roads this year, according to new industry projections, following a spurt in production and sales.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said pure electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for almost a quarter of the market last month as sales rose by 18.2% during February.

The body said overall sales were 26.2% higher – with 74,441 new registrations – completing seven consecutive months of growth.

February is traditionally a slow month for sales as it comes ahead of the new plate change in March.

But the car industry has consistently pointed to pent up demand.

A shortage of semiconductors largely linked to COVID disruption in Asia has held back production, and therefore sales, of new vehicles globally though that chip squeeze is finally starting to ease.

The SMMT had previously reported a 5.6% increase in car production for the UK market in January.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) recorded the most significant growth of all fuel types, up 40%, followed closely by petrol.

Diesel registrations fell by 7%, the data showed, continuing the trend of recent years linked to the climate battle against emissions and higher price for fuel at the pumps.

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Cost of electric cars ‘is coming down’

Two Vauxhall models led the way in terms of sales – the Corsa and Mokka.

The SMMT used its latest sales update to warn that next week’s budget must address affordability and access to charging for electric vehicles, as the clock ticks down to the 2030 ban on the sale of new cars powered by petrol and diesel.

The SMMT said: “Nearly half a million (488,000) PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and BEVs (battery electric vehicles) are expected to join Britain’s roads in 2023, as manufacturers bring more than 40 new plug-in electric models to the market.

“This will inevitably increase demand for charging infrastructure, however, and while the new £56m LEVI capability funding is welcome, there remains a clear requirement for binding targets that ensure chargepoint rollout keeps pace.”

It is seeking a series of initiatives from the chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

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“This should include a long-term plan for chargepoint investment, aligning VAT on public charging with domestic energy use, and reviewing the Vehicle Excise Duty premium that will unfairly penalise EV buyers switching to this inevitably more expensive technology in the future,” the SMMT added.

Its chief executive Mike Hawes said: “After seven months of growth, it is no surprise that the UK automotive sector is facing the future with growing confidence.

“It is vital, however, that government takes every opportunity to back the market, which plays a significant role in Britain’s economy and net zero ambition.

“As we move into ‘new plate month’ in March, with more of the latest high-tech cars available, the upcoming budget must deliver measures that drive this transition, increasing affordability and ease of charging for all.”

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