UK diesel car sales decline, plug-in hybrids up 72.7%

Electric car charging
CC BY 2.0 Kārlis Dambrāns

Earlier this year, I dared to get a little overly optimistic when both diesel car sales, and car sales overall, dropped in the UK. This—combined with an uptick in plug-in cars—could suggest a shift away from Britain's oil and auto dependency when it comes to transportation.

Now the Independent gives us an update on this story—reporting that diesel car sales were down 23.6% year-over-year in May. Car sales overall, however, were up, with gas (sorry, petrol!) cars up 23.5%. So maybe, as commenters said at the time, my optimism about the 'beginning of the end of car culture' was a little misplaced.

That said, the rise in sales is compared to particular dismal sales the year before. And there's decidedly good news for plug-in advocates, with plug-in hybrids in particular up 72.7%, and hybrids and fully electric cars also up significantly (22.6% and 18.7% respectively). We're still, of course, only talking about a relatively small fraction of the overall auto market—but with growth rates like these we should expect to see that portion grow significantly in coming years. Combine that with UK delivery fleets going increasingly electric, cities getting serious about reducing car dependency and improving air quality, and increased investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, and I wouldn't be shocked to see this transition pick up pace in the next year or two.

True, as Norway has shown it takes a good long while before shifts in sales result in actual drops in oil demand—but that time is coming. Policy makers and investors alike should probably start planning for it.

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