Drivers are scrambling to buy secondhand electric cars, more than doubling sales in the past year as demand for zero-emission vehicles surges.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that the number of transactions for electric cars increased from 6,600 in the first three months of 2021 to almost 14,600 in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 120%.
The secondhand car industry has been buoyed over much of the past two years – despite intermittent freezes in many markets during lockdowns – as the coronavirus pandemic and semiconductor computer chip shortages have delayed the delivery of new cars, pushing buyers to opt for more readily available used cars instead. Many lightly used secondhand cars have changed hands for more than their new equivalents.
The supply of used electric cars is still relatively meagre, however, and is likely to remain so for several years until first owners and commercial buyers such as rental fleets sell on their first-generation vehicles.
The SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “Electric car sales are energising the market, with zero-emission vehicles starting to filter through in larger numbers to consumers looking forward to driving the latest and greenest vehicles.
“Although there is some way to go before we see the recent growth in new EVs replicated in the used market, a buoyant new car market will be vital to help drive fleet renewal, which is essential to the delivery of carbon savings.”
Overall sales of secondhand cars rose by 5.1% year on year to 1.7 million, the SMMT said in data published on Tuesday, although they were still 12% below figures from 2019, before the pandemic.
Separate data from the used-car website Auto Trader shows that average prices for all used cars on its platform rose from £13,900 in April 2020 to £17,400 in April 2022. Prices for mass-market secondhand electric vehicles rose from £18,500 to £25,800 over that period.
Demand for electric cars is rising particularly fast in the UK as buyers prepare for anticipated bans or increased levies on fossil-fuel cars in several cities.
The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, plans to extend the city’s ultra-low emission zone to the whole of Greater London by the end of next year, and Manchester’s clean-air zone will belatedly be launched this summer.
Sales of new fossil-fuel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030, and hybrids from 2035.