Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are continuing to record strong sales as 2020 is celebrated as delivering the cleanest vehicles in history.

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), sales of BEVs in January 2021 were up 54.4% compared to 2020, coming in at 6,260 compared to 4,054.

This represents 6.9% of the market and comes as other vehicle types see significant drops in sales, with diesel selling 62.1% less than 2020 and petrol 50.6% less. Only 90,249 new cars were registered in January 2021, with the SMMT stating this is the worst start to a year since 1970.

However, the SMMT also found that 2020 – a year in which BEV sales went from strength to strength despite the impact of COVID-19 on the overall new car market – delivered the cleanest vehicles in history.

Average CO2 emissions fell 11.8% compared to 2019, and over half of all BEVs registered in the past two decades were registered in 2020 alone.

Together, BEVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are estimated to grow their combined market share from just over one in ten new cars to over one in seven this year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the automotive industry “faces a difficult start to 2021”, with the lockdown currently in place in the UK to “challenge society, the economy and our industry’s ability to move quickly towards our ambitious environmental goals”.

“Lifting the shutters will secure jobs, stimulate the essential demand that supports our manufacturing, and will enable us to forge ahead on the Road to Zero.”

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