Electric vehicles equated for almost one in five new cars registered in November and sales were almost twice as high as diesel motors, according to new figures.
Registrations last month rose 1.7 per cent annually to 115,706 cars, with 21,726 being 100 per cent electric models compared to just 11,118 diesels.
It means diesels now account for less than one in ten new motors purchased in Britain - a huge decline from less than a decade ago when they represented 50 per cent of the new car market.
Electric car sales double that of diesel: Some 21,726 EVs were registered in November compared to just 11,118 oil burners, SMMT figures confirmed today
Despite the marginal rise in motor sales last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says the semiconductor shortage that has riddled the sector throughout 2021 continues to restrict production and registrations.
Car industry bosses said November sales volumes must be viewed in the context of a weak 2020, when lockdowns impacted registrations, including the eleventh month of the year.
Compared to the pre-pandemic average, the market remains down significantly, with 31.3 per cent fewer vehicles registered during the month.
Mike Hawes, chief executive, said: 'What looks like a positive performance belies the underlying weakness of the market.
'Demand is there, with a slew of new, increasingly electrified, models launched but the global shortage of semiconductors continues to bedevil production and therefore new car registrations.
'The industry is working flat out to overcome these issues and fulfil orders, but disruption is likely to last into next year, compounding the need for customers to place orders early.'
While registrations grew year-on-year for the first time in 5 months, sales are down almost a third on the pre-pandemic level, motor industry bosses pointed out
Seán Kemple, managing director of Close Brothers Motor Finance, said demand for new cars remained high in the run-up to Christmas but stock limitations are pushing buyers to second-hand vehicles instead.
'While this has opened up opportunities for the used market, it's under equal pressure to stock used forecourts to meet new levels of demand. This cycle is likely to continue well into 2022,' he warned.
'There is no sign of improvement for the new car market, despite customers registering for cars and joining waiting lists of six months or more.'
Last week, Auto Trader said used car prices had risen by 29 per cent on average in November, with a second-hand model costing £17,366 last month compared to £13,504 in the same month a year ago, with seven-seat MPV models among the biggest risers.
It added that demand for used cars is so high that a quarter of models up to a year old advertised on the website are listed for prices above what they cost brand new.
Vauxhall Corsa set to become UK's best seller in 2021 - ending Ford's 50-YEAR run at the top
While the Mini was the best-selling new car in November, the Vauxhall Corsa extended its lead at the top of the 2021 sales charts.
Some 38,306 Corsas have been registered so far this year - almost 9,000 more than the next best seller, the Mercedes A-Class - with the all-electric Corsa-e also one of the best-selling all-electric models in its segment.
The new almost cements the Corsa being crowned Britain's most popular motor in 2021, which will see Vauxhall end Ford's 50-year run at the top.
In fact, the Fiesta - the nation's most-bought new car for the last 12 years - has slipped down the order to eighth most popular, with 27,000 registrations in 2021.
Over 38,300 Corsas have been registered so far this year. The Vauxhall, also sold as the electric Corsa-E (right), will end Ford's half-century run at the top of the UK sales chart
The last time a non-Ford was the country's most-bought new car was 1971, when the Austin/Morris 1100/1300 topped the charts.
Paul Willcox, managing director at Vauxhall, said: 'As a British brand, we're delighted to see the Corsa as UK's best-selling new car and, with electric sales continuing to grow at a rapid pace, we're proud to see the Corsa-e and our electric line-up help drive Britain to a more sustainable motoring future.'
Ford might be able to argue it is still at the top of the charts, though. That's because it has sold more Transit Custom vans than Vauxhall has Corsas.
Some 5,809 examples of the Ford van were registered in November, taking it to 49,671 sales in 2021 - over 10,000 more than the Vauxhall supermini.
Ford has sold more Transit Custom vans in 2021 than Vauxhall has sold Corsas, SMMT records show
Nearly one in five new cars bought in Britain are EVs
While the sector looks set to battle parts shortages into 2022, demand for electrified vehicles remains strong, the data shows.
This is shown by the fact 100 per cent battery powered cars had their second highest share of sales on record last month - and the highest outside of a lockdown period.
Tesla's Model 3 was the third best-selling new car last month. The Mini, Vauxhall Corsa, MG ZS and Volvo XC40 are also models most in demand that have fully-electric versions
Fully-electric cars accounted for 18.8 per cent of the market - almost twice as high as last year - with Tesla's Model 3 the third most-registered vehicle in November.
As well as the Tesla, the top-selling model in November was the Mini, which is available as a fully-electric version.
That's also the case for other cars in last month's highest sales charts, including the Vauxhall Corsa, MG ZS and Volvo XC40.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles' share also grew to 9.3 per cent, or 10,796 units.
With just a month remaining in 2021, 1,538,585 new cars have been registered, of which 17.5 per cent have been fully-electric or plug-in hybrid cars.
That means one in six new cars is capable of being plugged in.
The Tesla Model 3 was the third most-registered new car in Britain in November as demand for electric vehicles continues to surge
Fully-electric cars accounted for 18.8% of the market last month - which is almost twice as high as last year and nearly double that of diesel registrations
Over 163,000 fully-electric cars have been registered in 2021, though industry bosses say the public charging infrastructure is failing to keep pace with demand for plug-in models
When combined with self-charging hybrid electric vehicle sales (9 per cent share), more than a quarter (26.5 per cent) of the new car market during 2021 has been electrified.
Mr Hawes welcomed the growth in demand for EVs, but said more needed to be done to ensure a charging infrastructure is in place to accommodate the rise in plug-in cars on the road.
Recent analysis by the SMMT revealed that the pace of public charging device installations is lagging, with the number of plug-in cars potentially sharing a public on-street charger deteriorating from 11 to 16 between 2019 and 2020 and just one standard on-street public charger installed for every 52 new plug-in cars registered over the course of this year.
Britain's ratio of plug-in vehicles on the road to standard public chargers (16:1) was one of the worst among the top 10 global electric vehicle markets at the end of 2020.
'The continued acceleration of electrified vehicle registrations is good for the industry, the consumer and the environment but, with the pace of public charging infrastructure struggling to keep up, we need swift action and binding public charger targets so that everyone can be part of the electric vehicle revolution, irrespective of where they live,' he said.
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