Electric cars are on track to become as ubiquitous as the internet, the transport minister has said, claiming plug-in vehicle technology was reaching a “tipping point”.Andrew Jones, the roads minister, said sales of ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) were “rocketing”, with 28,188 new ULEV cars on the road in 2015 – almost double the number in 2014, and more than the previous five years combined.
Although this remains a tiny fraction of the overall car market – with a record 2.6 million new vehicles sold last year – the Government believes by 2050 it can get “virtually every car and van on the road to be zero emission”.
In a speech this week, Mr Jones said: “The shift we are seeing reminds me of the spread of the internet in the 1990s.
“The internet started small, as a niche interest, but then it snowballed, and now it’s hard to imagine being without it.
“I think we are seeing a similar picture emerging for ultra-low emission vehicles in Britain today.
“ULEV sales are not just growing rapidly, they are rocketing.”
In 1998, just 9 per cent of households had home access to the internet – but by 2004 that had increased to more than half of all homes, ONS data suggest. Some 85 per cent of households now have home internet access, the vast majority of them with broadband connections.
Mr Jones added: “The internet only really snowballed when internet users, providers, website retailers and investors came together in sufficient numbers to create a tipping point.
“We’re reaching that tipping point with the ULEV market.”
Hybrid plug-in vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Outlander were the most popular type of ULEVs last year, with 18,254 registrations, a 137 per cent increase on 2014.
Sales of fully electric vehicles increased by 48 per cent, with 9,934 registrations last year.
Sales of ULEVs have been boosted by Government grants of up to £5,000. These grants are being reduced from March, but ministers have vowed to support a further 100,000 ULEV purchases, as well as continuing to offer grants to install home charging points.
Shifting to electric cars is seen as a crucial if the UK is to hit its long-term climate change goals, which require carbon emissions to be slashed by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.