Though only 12% of new sales were zero-exhaust electric vehicles, emissions fell by 11.2% in 2021
The carbon dioxide emissions of new cars sold in the UK dropped to the lowest level ever in 2021 thanks to the unprecedented surge in electric vehicle sales, industry data suggests.
Average new car CO2 emissions fell by 11.2%, to 119.7g for every kilometre driven, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a lobby group.
Battery electric vehicles accounted for only 12% of UK sales during 2021, but they rapidly drag down the figures because they produce zero exhaust emissions. Increased sales of hybrids, which include a battery alongside an internal combustion engine, also contributed to the fall in emissions, which was previously stymied in recent years by the rise of sales in higher-emission sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
In 2021, the SMMT reported a 38% drop in average new car emissions since 2000, although those data were produced under a different test methodology so are not directly comparable.
Car sales data for January, also published on Friday, showed that the number of battery electric cars more than doubled year on year to 14,400, accounting for 12.5% of cars sold
Total new car sales rose by 27.5% year on year in January, although that was compared with January 2021 when the UK was in a strict lockdown and car showrooms were closed. The industry reported that sales were still limited by the months-long shortage of computer chips that has forced carmakers to favour key vehicles, including electric cars – which are vital for meeting emissions legislation.
Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said: “Once again it is electrified vehicles that are driving the growth, despite the ongoing headwinds of chip shortages, rising inflation and the cost-of-living squeeze.
Read more: The Guardian