Mitsubishi Outlander on top as electric car sales surge

Heightened by Government grants, the number of ultra-low emission plug-in vehicles in the UK has more than tripled over the past year.

According to the RAC Foundation, at the end of the first quarter there were 29,469 vehicles on the road in the UK that were eligible for grants, a rise of 37 per cent on the final quarter of last year and three times the number on Britain’s roads at the start of 2014.

Under existing schemes, buyers of plug-in hybrid cars and vans are eligible for a £5,000 and £8,000 grant respectively. Although the pace of increase is impressive, motoring groups are concerned this will slow should grants be withdrawn from plug-in vehicles.

‘For the time being that is still dependent on a government grant,’ said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation. ‘The challenge for manufacturers will be to offer economically attractive options when the grants get reined in.’

Electric vehicles are increasingly being viewed as the future of motoring as more manufacturers develop plug-in hybrid technologies that allow drivers to recharge their cars quicker and travel further. However, limited range and the cost of sophisticated batteries remain a hurdle that the industry must work to overcome.

Out of the 30.7m cars and 3.6m vans licensed in the UK, plug-ins only account for 0.09 per cent, or one in every 1,164 vehicles on the roads.

From a list of top 20 models compiled by the RAC Foundation, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid has emerged as the best-selling, with 9,688 rolling off the forecourts in the first quarter, compared to 5,273 cars in the final three months of last year. The Mitsubishi was followed by the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Tesla, came in seventh in the RAC Foundation survey.