The ZEV mandate, which dictates that 22% of each car maker's sales in the UK must be electric cars, has now finally come into effect - and some are in far better shape than others. 

Data from Automotive Services International (ASI) on 2023 new-car registrations to the end of October revealed that you can count on one hand the traditional makers that are already over the threshold of compliance.

Every car sold above the 22% will attract a £15,000 fine, unless a car maker defers the sales to a future year. Complying can mean buying credits from other car makers with credits in hand – Tesla, Polestar and MG.

In the third quarter of 2023, Mercedes-Benz and the BMW Group both broke through the 22% share well ahead of schedule, with Mercedes pushing closer to 30%.

In the September plate-change month, Mercedes sold only 710 fewer EVs (5054) than petrol cars (5764), whereas in the March plate-change month, the gap was more than 7000 (2514 EVs compared with 9844 petrols). 

The BMW Group's numbers are following a similar trend, its Q3 share sitting above 25%, thanks to increasing numbers of electric BMWs being registered; and with new Mini EVs coming as well in 2024, expect the 22% target to pose no problem. 

The Volkswagen Group is edging its EV sales upwards, although not at a run rate that on the face of it shows an obvious way to 22%, currently sitting at 15%. 

In the bumper month of September, the 3747 EVs registered by Volkswagen itself was 17% of its total sales, but in October that slipped back again to 11%.

The opposite occurred at Audi, where 18% of EV sales in September increased to 21% in October.

While premium brands are making greater headway towards the 22% target (Volvo was another running well in October, at 29%), ASI’s numbers show how hard it is for mainstream brands to convince mainstream buyers to go electric during the cost of living crisis.

With this in mind, the other Volkswagen Group brands need Audi’s EVs to perform, as the proportion of EVs sold reduces as you look down the brand hierarchy. 

Stellantis lacks a premium brand with the cachet of Audi, BMW or Mercedes, yet even with a number of EVs across its brands, it saw its proportion of EV sales in Q3 drop below 10% from above 15% in the quarter before.