My Urban Car

December and full year 2020 UK car sales report –

The UK ended 2020 with a bit of a bang for EV sales with December 2020 sales 4.4 times what they were in December 2019. By comparison the market as a whole feel 10.9%. Full details are below

Have EV sales overtaken diesels?

The chart appears to show an exciting moment.. the crossover where sales of EVs surpass diesel cars (inc diesel MHEVs). The answer is they have but almost certainly not yet permanently. What we had in December 2020 is a goldlocks scenario where diesel sales were hit by Covid restrictions and EV deliveries were boosted by a bumper boat load of Tesla Model 3s and the new VW ID.3 as well. So is it good news EV sales are growing fast and have beaten diesel sales for 2 months in 2020? Yes. Do we think rising EV sales will permanently pass falling diesel sales during 2021? Read on..

If the live chart doesn’t show above here are 2 views with and without stats


Dieselstandard cars powered by diesel engines and are slowly being replaced by diesel MHEV’s

Diesel MHEValso known as Mild Hybrids these are simply a new diesel cars with the same engines and a slightly (around 2-3%) more efficient starter motor. Although marketed as hybrids they really are not real hybrids as they can’t travel an inch or even a cm on electric power. We include diesel MHEV’s our diesel totals on our charts

Petrolstandard cars powered by petrol engines and are slowly being replaced by petrol MHEVs

Petrol MHEValso known as Mild Hybrids these are simply a new petrol car with the same engines and a slightly (around 2-3%) more efficient starter motor. Although marketed as hybrids they really are not real hybrids as they can’t travel an inch or even a cm on electric power

BEV Battery Electric Vehicles. These pure electric vehicles run without any petrol or diesel engine and are set to replace all piston engine cars & vans. They are cheaper to run and maintain and reduce CO2 by over 60%+ compared to fossil fuel powered cars. Charge times are much faster than on PHEVs and on long trips usually involve brief stops of 15 – 35 mins. The record distance travelled in 24 hrs in a Tesla Model 3 including all charging time is over 1700 miles so high mileage is not an issue on the right BEV that can charge at 100kW or quicker

PHEV Plugin Hybrid Vehicles – these cars can run on petrol or diesel or electric power. They can be more efficient than pure petrol or diesel cars but are hampered on using EV mode because most have small batteries that are very slow to charge and then only manage 15 to 30 miles electric range. There are now a few PHEVs than can DC charge quickly and have range of 40-50 miles.

HEV Hybrid Electric Vehicles – these are personified by the standard Toyota Prius. All the power comes from a piston engine (you can’t plug them in and they do not “self charge” but like a BEV a hybrid uses electric motors to drive at low speed or help boost the petrol engine at higher speeds and harvests energy from braking to boost efficiency. As a result Prius sized hybrids can be more efficient in urban driving than other piston cars.

December 2020 sales compared to (December 2019)

  • EV 16.5% (3.3%)
    This was a stonking finish for UK EV sales with 2 EVs in the top 5 selling cars in December..1st The Tesla Model3 with 5,798 deliveries and 4th VW ID.3 3,188. Overall BEV sales were above expectations at 21.914 up from 4,491 a year earlier. The Tesla delivery pattern is tied strongly to the end of each quarter so total December UK sales of all Models of 6,400 are better compared with September 2020 end of quarter -5,823 rather than the October figure of 511!
  • Plugin EV + PHEV 23.4% (6.6%)
  • Plugin EV + PHEV + HEV hybrid 29.4% (10.0%)
  • Diesel inc MHEV 16.2% 24.9%
    This was another big move down for diesel sales. Diesel sales in 2020 have tended to recover to a sales share of close to 20% in “normal months” when car showrooms are open, indeed the share for the whole of 2020 was 19.7% down from 24.9% in 2019. However with stringent COVID restrictions now planned until at least the end of March diesel sales will almost certainly remain depressed. Indeed the question how many people will still want new diesels by the time “normal” months arrive. Diesel options are being pulled from individual models and some whole brands on an almost monthly basis while a raft of new SUV EV’s due in early 2021 (including the VW ID.4 and its Skoda Enyaq sibling) are likely to cut a swathe through the diesel stronghold cars like the Audi Q3, Q5, BMW X1 & X3 along with Mercedes and Land Rover equivalents
  • Petrol inc MHEV 54.4% (65.1%)

2020 UK Annual sales (2019, 2018)

  • EV 6.6% (1.6%, 0.7%)
    Bumper EV deliveries in December took the annual total to 108k (37.8k, 15.5k) about 10,000 more than anticipated for the final month.
  • Plugin EV + PHEV 10.7% (3.1%, 2.5%)
    PHEV sales alone rose in share to 4.1% (1.5%) but pure EVs are now the dominant story leaving the “stepping stone” PHEV technology in its wake.
  • Plugin+hybrid 17.5% (7.4%, 4%)
    Hybrid cars remain a force with sales just above pure EVs at 110,117 versus 108,205. The difference is EV sales grew by 184% while Hybrid sales grew.. 12.1%.
  • Diesel inc MHEV 19.7% (26.7%, 31.7%)
    Diesel sales managed to cling to close to 20% of sales closing just under. the small drop in market share doesn’t tell the whole story however.
  • In 2018 diesel sales inc MHEV were 750,165 v 15,510 EVs or 48.3 to 1 diesel to EV. By 2019 615,705 diesel were sold v 37,850 EVs so down to 16.2 to 1. In 2020 diesel sales collapsed to 322,725 diesels v 108,205 or 2.9 diesel sales to 1 EV. In Dec 2020 1.01 EVs sold per diesel!
  • Sales were restricted in December while EV sales have tended to be immune so the true final crossover between diesel and EV sales probably hasn’t happened but can be at some point in 2020. EV sales may remain above diesel in Jan to March or April, but at some point the 2 will crossed over probably when both are in the 12-15% range. We are counting diesel MHEVs in these numbers.. if you don’t then diesel sales are already were already down to 16.0% share for 2020 and 11.9% share in December as MHEV’s (see definition above) take over from the non MHEV models.
  • Petrol inc MHEV 62.7% (65.9%, 62.3%)
    Petrol sales seem to have been immune the rise in plugin vehicle sales. We think rising EV and Plugin share will still mainly come out of the diesel sales column in 2021 (partly because diesels are paradoxically mainly sold by premium brands in cars that EVs can already compete with on price. We think petrol has another year as most small EVs are a lot more expensive than the petrol models they compete with.
  • Overall sales in 2020 1.63m (2.31m)
  • Based on our on gut feel alone in the final quarter of 2021
    diesel inc MHEVs 13%
    Petrol 60%
    hybrid 6%
    PHEV 7%
    EV 14%
    In an optimistic scenario these shares will be achieved over the full year of 2021 and the final quarter will be above this EV share. Why is our EV share below the December 2020 number. Well December was a Tesla end of quarter and a non normal month for car showrooms. Compared to the 6.5% in November a 14% figure over the year is strong growth and Tesla’s new Gigafactories including in Berlin won’t be getting into their stride until Q4. At best production from Berlin will take responsibility for EU sales allowing Fremont to send more cars to UK. Trouble is Fremont cars are more expensive to UK may have to wait for Model 3 and Y to fall in price for a little longer than continental European markets.
  • As a result Tesla sales in UK should rise again in 2021. In 2020 they rose to 26,086 or a 1.6% share compared to 14,635 (0.63% share in 2019. Having passed Jaguar sales in UK already we still think they will be lucky to catch Volvo’s 46,000 2.85% share until 2022 when all bets are off.

David Nicholson

David Nicholson Is the founder of Rivergecko Ltd & MyUrbanCar which provide consultancy and advice for drivers and fleets to speed the transition from dirty fossil fuel transport to clean vehicles powered by renewable energy on land water and air.

The @MyUrbanCar twitter feed is a source of news & reviews of electric & plugin cars and vans in the UK.
The @rivergecko twitter feed & websites bring news and opinion on cleantech transport including cars, vans, buses, trucks, shipping, rail & aviation as well as autonomous vehicles & renewable energy, air pollution & motor industry news.

David Nicholson has worked as an underwriter at Lloyd's of London since the 1980's. His interest in technology goes back many years including interactive mapping, apps, green tech, boats, solar and cars.