The United Kingdom has witnessed a surge in the number of vehicles on its roads, reaching an all-time high in 2023. According to the latest Motorparc data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the total number of vehicles climbed by 1.7 per cent to an impressive 41,404,589 units.

One of the most notable contributors to this growth has been the rising popularity of plug-in vehicles, marking the most substantial increase in car ownership since 2016. The data reveals that the total number of passenger cars on the road rose by 1.6 per cent or 546,800 units to reach 35,694,845. This surge follows the registration of nearly half a million new battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars throughout 2023.

Number of cars in the UK

Of particular significance is the remarkable 47.3 per cent increase in the number of BEVs compared to the previous year. Electric cars constitute 2.7 per cent of all cars in use, up from a mere 1.9 per cent in 2022.

Despite the record number of vehicles on the road, there has been a notable reduction in average car CO2 emissions, decreasing by 2.1 per cent. Particularly encouraging is the 11.5 per cent drop in company car emissions, attributed to fiscal incentives driving fleets towards investing in electric vehicles.

What fuel powers cars in the UK?

However, challenges remain in decarbonising UK road transport, especially in the commercial sector. The data shows a significant increase in the number of commercial vehicles in operation, with heavy goods vehicles and vans rising by 1.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively. Furthermore, while electric buses have seen a remarkable 159.4 per cent increase in operation, reaching 1,922 units, the overall public transport fleet has shrunk to its smallest level on record. With one in five buses in use being over 18 years old, there is a pressing need for greater investment in this crucial sector.