Around 8.4 million cars on the roads today in the UK are more than 13 years old as most drivers shied away from buying a new vehicle during the pandemic.
The lockdowns of the past two years pushed Britons into holding on to their vehicles for longer as the average car age reaches a new high of 8.7 years old, more than a year older than a decade ago, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Overall, the number of vehicles in the UK grew 0.4% to 40,506,971 in 2021 with more plug-in electric cars, vans, trucks and buses put on Britain’s roads.
Nearly three-quarters of a million vehicles on the road today can be plugged in, including 720,053 cars, 26,990 vans, 993 buses and 313 trucks. Electric car uptake is growing rapidly, accounting for around one in five new registrations.
However, plug-ins still only represent around one in 50 cars on the road and most of them are registered to businesses rather than people and the majority are found in London.
A third (33.1%) of all plug-in cars are registered in London and the South East, representing 3% and 2.6% of all cars in each area. By contrast, 1.5% of cars in the West Midlands are plug-in electric, 1.9% in Yorkshire and Humberside, and 0.9% in the North East.
Differences in uptake could also be seen across the four British nations, with plug-ins making up 2.2% of cars in England, 1.6% in Scotland, and 0.8% in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The majority of plug-in cars are registered to businesses rather than people, while some 58.8% of all electric cars on the road company registered, as businesses receive broader, more generous incentives to make the switch than those offered to private consumers.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Britain’s switch to electric vehicles continues to gather pace, with a record one in five new car registrations now plug-ins. However, they still represent around one in 50 cars on the road, so there is significant ground to cover if we are to fully decarbonise road transport at pace.
“The first consecutive annual fall in vehicle numbers in more than a century shows how significantly the pandemic has impacted the industry, leading Britons to hold onto their cars for longer.
“With fleet renewal essential to net zero, we must build consumer confidence in the economy and, for drivers, confidence in the charging infrastructure to get the transition into top gear.”
There are some 20.5 million petrol cars and 13 million diesels making up 58.6% and 37.1% of the car parc respectively, a combined total of 95.7%.
New car registrations remained broadly static at 1.65 million, with car ownership falling 0.2% to 35,023,652 vehicles — the second year in a row the car parc has fallen and the first time the UK has experienced consecutive falls in more than a century.
The UK car industry has been battered by major shortages of key components and supply chain disruptions across the globe.