The number of green cars sold in Britain has fallen for the first time in two years after the government cut subsidies.
Last month 13,314 “alternatively fuelled” cars were registered, 12 per cent less than in June 2018. Sales of pure electric cars rose sharply but this was offset by a huge decrease in the number of hybrids, which run on a combination of battery power and a conventional petrol engine.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that it was the first time since April 2017 that the eco-friendly car sector had seen a decline.
The figures will come as a blow to the government’s ambition to promote clean alternatives to traditional petrol and diesel cars.
Ministers want to end the sale of combustion engine cars by 2040 to improve the quality of roadside air, ensuring that all new vehicles are effectively zero-emission models.
Motor manufactures have criticised the government’s decision to cut a £4,500 grant for those buying plug-in cars, which has already had a major impact on sales. The grant was abolished for plug-in hybrids last November and cut to £3,500 for pure electric cars.
Electric cars cost up to £10,000 more than their petrol or diesel equivalents and the government has acknowledged that the gulf in price is unlikely to close until the mid-2020s at the earliest. Price is often cited by motorists as one of the main reasons against turning to an electric or hybrid model. Concerns have also been raised over the lack of public roadside chargers.
Whitehall sources blame car manufacturers for the sluggish growth, saying that some drivers have to wait up to 12 months to receive the most sought-after electric cars. Carmakers have been accused of pushing sales of combustion engine cars before the European Union introduces strict new carbon dioxide emissions targets in 2020 and 2021.
Today’s SMMT figures show that overall car sales in the UK fell by 4.9 per cent in June compared with a year earlier, the fourth monthly decline in a row. Diesel sales fell by a fifth, countering a 3 per cent increase in sales of petrol cars.