BCA CCT Knowledge LogoThe general carnage and confusion around diesel vehicles has had the upside of giving a useful boost to the plug-in sector, on which the Government seems to be pinning its air quality hopes for the foreseeable future.

Since the ultra low-emission vehicle grant was launched in early 2011, 161,349 eligible cars have been registered; last month there was a 38.4% rise in pure battery electric car registrations and a huge 167.5% increase in plug-in hybrid models, those that combine battery with a petrol engine.

Admittedly electric vehicle registrations are down year-on-year, but that’s almost solely because the dominant Nissan Leaf’s model changeover took place early this year, and the negative figure on the below table is likely to turn positive in September’s month-end figures.

Vehicle Remarketing Association board director Rupert Pontin admits attitudes are slowly changing towards plug-in vehicles, with the used market “wary of them”, but becoming ever-more comfortable as “retail consumers show more interest off the back of poor press for diesel cars”.

Concerns still apply though, says Pontin, around the rapid pace of technological change for new plug-in vehicles, and around consumer understanding, especially with vehicles that look the same as petrol or diesel versions.

He said: “The Golf is a Golf and people will buy it without properly understanding what it can do and if it is even appropriate to their needs.”



Vehicle CategoryAugust 2018
(market share)
August 2017
(market share)
% Change
Pure electric
Plug-in hybrid
659 (0.7%)
3322 (3.5%)
476 (0.6%)
1243 (1.6%)
Vehicle CategoryYear-to-date 2018
(market share)
Year-to-date 2017
(market share)
% Change
Pure electric
Plug-in hybrid
8980 (0.6%)
28,913 (1.8%)
9030 (0.6%)
19,695 (1.2%)

Source: SMMT



As the above figures show, plug-in vehicles are gently increasing their share of the market, although 97.9% of new cars registered so far in 2018 are not eligible for the Government’s plug-in car grant.

“Volumes in the used market continues to grow, but not excessively, which is pleasing as oversupply would cause negative press,” says the VRA’s board director Rupert Pontin, who declares that wholesale buyers still tend to buy to order, as familiarity with the technology is still growing, and the industry remains “a long way from reaching critical mass”.

Pontin did though say retail buyers are beginning to become more aware of the technology, especially around more well-established and distinctive vehicles such as the BMW i3, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Nissan Leaf.



BCA Managing Director UK Remarketing, Stuart Pearson on defleeting plug-in vehicles.

Stuart-Pearson - MD - BCA UK Remarketing

Stuart Pearson – MD – BCA UK Remarketing

 1. Scarcity brings inconsistency

While the plug-in hybrid market has grown, their actual volume still remains very low compared with the traditional fuel types. Supply is inconsistent, which means professional buyers will seek out the best examples when they appear and bid strongly.


2. An increasingly receptive marketplace

The market is getting more receptive to alternative fuels.  Knowledge is improving and plug-in hybrids are becoming more popular with used car buyers, because they offer cheap electric-only power for short trips, yet longer journeys are free from ‘range anxiety’ thanks to their petrol or diesel engines.  PHEVs typically also don’t attract any charges when using congestion charging zones. These factors all combine to make plug-in hybrids an attractive purchase for professional buyers at auction.


3. Condition and mileage are even more vital than normal

Poor-condition and low-spec vehicles need to be valued carefully because their values can still seem expensive in comparison with those of petrol or diesel variants. Fleet managers should make sure their alternatively fuelled vehicles are serviced at the correct intervals by an appropriate dealer and provide a comprehensive history. If the vehicle needs an MoT soon after the time of sale, get it done early.


4. PHEV’s no hassle to defleet

PHEVs do not create any additional logistical challenges to sell. BCA centres have the ability to charge vehicles on-site and, of course, PHEVs run on their engines.


5. Cable check

Ensure PHEVs are supplied with the correct charging cable as replacements can cost several hundred pounds and buyers
will factor this into their bidding.