RAC Foundation News - September 2019

The news this week that the Tesla Model 3 was the third best-selling car in August in the UK (based on new-car registration data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) was clearly good news for the American company.

It was also good news for the 2,082 customers of the firm who took delivery of the cars. Those customers included the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who, reportedly, finally got his hands on his £44,000 Model 3 after spending two years on the waiting list.

Tesla’s figures are likely to have been flattered by this release of pent-up demand for the Model 3 and also because the summer is, more generally, a relatively quiet time in car showrooms.

But how do Tesla’s numbers – across Europe, 37,227 Model 3s were sold in the first six months of 2019 – compare with the broader electric vehicle (EV) market in the UK?

Elon Musk’s product accounted for two-thirds of the total of 3,147 pure battery-electric cars registered last month giving EVs a market share of 3.4% overall (compared with 64% for petrol-powered cars and 26% for diesel).

Conventional hybrids – those that have both internal combustion engines and electric motors, but which don’t have to be connected to the mains – accounted for 4.3% of the market.

Plug-in hybrids had only a 1% share. Sales have been sluggish since the end of last year when they were excluded from the Government’s plug-in car grant scheme, which currently provides £3,500 towards the cost of the greenest models.

Since its introduction in January 2011, the grant had – by the halfway point of this year – been used to buy 220,142 cars in the UK, though as Mr Shapps said at the weekend, sooner or later it will disappear completely. His advice to those in the market for an EV? Buy now while the subsidy is available.

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