In 2023, over 314,000 fully electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in the UK, according to official data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This makes 2023 a record-breaking year for EV sales.
Overall, 2023 was a year of significant progress for the EV industry. New government regulations around EV charge points promise greater assurance and cost transparency for EV drivers, while technological advancements in lithium-ion batteries are set to transform EV range and charge time. Yet, it was also a year of great economic uncertainty and political controversy.
Here are some key moments that shaped the EV industry in 2023.
Rishi Sunak delays the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars
In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a 5-year delay to the UK’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, moving the date back to 2035. The move sparked fierce political debate across the country, with manufacturers, fleets, and industry experts warning that it could put the brakes on a rapidly growing EV market.
In truth, the decision to delay the ban will unlikely have that much of an impact on the UK’s transition to electric driving. The government’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate requires car manufacturers to sell a certain number of EVs each year, which means EV production will continue to grow at scale. By 2030, 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans must be electric. And those who fail to comply will face hefty penalties from January 2024 onwards.
EV charging becomes much easier
Inconsistency across the UK’s public charge point network has long been a challenge for EV drivers. Tariffs differ from location to location, as do the payment apps. Meanwhile, drivers often struggle to find accurate information on which charge points are out of order.
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In response, in July last year, the government announced a suite of new regulations for public charging designed to improve the charging experience for all EV drivers. This includes contactless payment options at all new public chargers of 8kW and above and real-time information on the status of each charge station.
The new regulations represent the first big move for minimum standards for EV charging in the UK. Some Charge Point Operators (CPOs) and businesses may find it difficult to comply, but overall, this is a big win for EV drivers.
UK passes 50,000 charge point milestone
Along with record-breaking EV sales, 2023 also saw a significant surge in public charge points. December statistics show that there are now over 50,000 charging points across the UK – an increase of 46% since November 2022.
Despite all this, there’s still a long way to go to meet the government’s target of 300,000 EV charging points by 2030. To get things moving quicker, the government announced an additional investment of over £380 million as part of a major energy package. Meanwhile, ChargeUK, a trade association of private companies that install and operate chargepoints, has committed over £6 billion by 2030. Expect this to be a key focus for industry commentators in 2024.
Advancements in battery technology
The EV industry is rapidly evolving, with key players overtaking each other at every twist and turn. It’s an exciting watch.
Tesla Inc. has long been a dominant player in the EV battery market with lithium-ion batteries. Last year, however, Silicon Valley start-up QuantumScape caught the attention of the EV industry with a new development. Its use of solid-state technology has increased energy density in the batteries, driving forward longer ranges. QuantumScape’s advancements have supposedly tripled the energy density of Tesla’s batteries through a safer, more sustainable design.
As competition in the EV battery market intensifies, we’re seeing significant improvements in energy density, range, and charging times – addressing some major concerns for fleets and drivers. SMMT shared earlier in 2023 that the average range of all EVs on the market is 236 miles, with new models in the UK averaging almost 300 miles.
This is definitely one to watch in 2024.
Looking to the year ahead
While 2023 was a positive year for the EV industry, 2024 will be somewhat more challenging.
The tough financial climate has meant that many fleet-operating businesses, which have long been the driving force behind the nation’s transition to electric, have had to scale back on larger-scale sustainability projects. This isn’t to say that they’re any less determined to make a real difference towards net zero; it just means that they’ll need to record from the financial hits of the past few years before committing to high-investment projects. However, as we saw during the pandemic, the EV industry is extremely resilient to economic ups and downs. As such, we should fully expect to see more major milestones over the next 12-months, particularly as we see the rollout of lower cost models.