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Electric car sales spike sends CO2 emissions to ‘record low’

Carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the UK fell last year to their lowest levels since records began 25 years ago, as record numbers of buyers chose electric vehicles, industry chiefs have said.

Average emissions for new cars off the forecourt dropped by 11.2 per cent to 119.7g for every kilometre – the smallest figure since 1997, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT.)

In 2012, new cars gave off an average of 133.1g of carbon dioxide per km, according to Statista.

But the industry organisation warned that a lack of charging infrastructure will hamper efforts to further cut carbon emissions as demand for electric cars is increasing exponentially.

By the end of the year, it predicts a quarter of all new vehicles sold will be plug-ins.

Last year was a record one for zero- and ultra-low-emission vehicles, the society’s figures show.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounted for only 6.9 per cent of UK sales, but they produce zero exhaust emissions.

Already this year, the market share of BEVs has nearly doubled, to 12.5 per cent.

The society says their numbers are expected to grow by 61 per cent this year and sales of and plug-in hybrid cars are forecast to rise 42 per cent by 31 December.

The popularity of higher-emission sports utility vehicles (SUVs) has undermined efforts in recent years to bring down climate-changing gases from private cars.

Plug-in vehicles and plug-in hybrids had “another bumper month” in January, the society said, with 14,433 and 9,047 registered respectively, equal to more than a fifth of the market.

But demand overall is still well below pre-pandemic levels, according to the industry body. And the shortage of semiconductors, increasing costs of living and rising interest rates are expected to reduce new car sales this year.

It said: “Cutting CO2 even further will require more drivers to switch to electric and other zero-emission technologies.

“One of the obstacles remains perceptions of a lack of charging infrastructure, which must be built ahead of demand – and that demand is increasing exponentially.”

According to the government, the number of public electric vehicle charging devices has grown by 9 per cent quarterly, on average, since 2015, and in October there were 25,927 in the UK.

The highest proportion was in London, and the lowest in Northern Ireland.

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