In the UK in the first half of 2019, hybrids and battery electric cars accounted for over 6 per cent of all registrations. Dept. of Transport figures (in percentages) were as follows:-

2019 Q1 66.6 (Petrol) 27.2 (Diesel) 4.0 (Hybrid Electric) 1.2 (Hybrid plug-in) 1.0 (Battery Electric)
2019 Q2 65.6 (Petrol) 27.7 (Diesel) 4.5 (Hybrid Electric) 1.1 (Hybrid plug-in) 1.1 (Battery Electric)

By comparison, figures for the first half of 2018 were as follows:-

2018 Q1 61.6 (Petrol) 33.3 (Diesel) 3.2 (Hybrid Electric) 1.4 (Hybrid plug-in) 0.6 (Battery Electric)
2018 Q2 62.6 (Petrol) 31.3 (Diesel) 3.6 (Hybrid Electric)1.9 (Hybrid plug-in) 0.6 (Battery Electric)

At first glance, the rather more significant figure is that for the decline in the registration of diesel vehicles. In terms of Electric vehicles (EV) these figures suggest no more than a steady, but unspectacular, percentage increase in registrations. On a slightly more historical basis, sales of plug-in passenger carsachieved a 2.1 per cent market share of new carsales in 2018, up from 1.3 per cent in 2017 and 0.86 per cent in 2016.

Image by Francis Ray on

The likely conclusion is that these are not (yet) figures showing that a revolution is taking place. On the contrary, it would seem that the electric vehicle world is not without its troubles: in the last few days we have been told that work has been abandoned on the planned Dyson electric car on the grounds that cost increases mean that the project is no longer commercially viable. The idea was to construct a battery electric vehicle in Singapore, which would reach the UK in 2021. An investment of  $3.2 billion (£2.5 billion) in the project would capitalize on the company’s expertise with smaller electric motors—the ones in Dyson’s vacuum cleaners—as well as developing solid-state batteries to power the vehicle. But now those plans are cancelled, though the investment will still be made “…. for  the formidable task of manufacturing solid-state batteries and [for] other fundamental technologies”

Dyson’s difficulties will come as no surprise to industry watchers; although Tesla has managed to establish itself as a car company, it’s had a more difficult time making money selling those cars. Mass production of electric vehicles demands knowledge of, and experience in, successful mass production as well as a mastery of the technology of electric vehicles. (It is common knowledge that Tesla, the leading US luxury electric car manufacturer has yet to show a profit, though it was revenue positive for one quarter last year.)Meanwhile, other more recent entrants like the American Faraday Future and the Shanghai- headquartered Nio have had an ever rougher time. In addition, the Financial Times tells us that four Chinese electric vehicle companies are in difficulty, including Zotye Automobile which has an electric car joint venture with Ford.

So what is going on?

The answer seems to be that, irrespective of the problems of the world economy, the Chinese Government has decided to remove many of the subsidies for the purchase of EVs. As a result the market for electric cars in China is in decline. This matters because the Chinese market for automobiles is the largest market in the world, though not the country, the US, where there are most cars per head of the population.