The alternative fuel sector - which includes hybrid, plug-in hybrid, range-extended electric and pure electric vehicles grew from 15,413 units in the first six months of 2013 to 23,337 so far this year, according to the SMMT's figures.

Demand for ultra-low emission vehicles is accelerating too. Since the Plug-in Car Grant was introduced in January 2011, 10,225 eligible vehicles have been registered, 3,344 (32.6%) of which were registered during the first half of this year.

However, hybrids still account for the bulk of the volume, with sales up 39.1% from 13,853 in 2013 to 19,264 in 2014. Toyota’s Auris Hybrid was the sales leader with 4,934 sold in the first six months of the year, accounting for 25.6% of all hybrid sales in the UK to become the biggest-selling alternative fuel vehicle.

Plug-in hybrids and range extenders tripled their sales footprint, with 1,515 sold in the first half of 2014 compared to 511 sold in 2013 – a 196.5% increase year on year. New models have had a significant effect here, with 35.8% of the total sales (542 units) taken up by the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV despite sales only beginning in April and the BMW i3 REX selling 355 units, or 25.6% of the plug-in hybrid and range extender sales to the end of June.

Pure electric vehicles were the fastest-growing sector, up from 1,049 for the first half of 2013 to 2,558 in the same period of 2014 - a 143.9% year on year increase. The Nissan LEAF remained the biggest-selling model, recording 1,760 registrations to take 68.8% of the total volume while increasing its own sales by 113.3% year on year – helped by a refresh and wider range introduced in 2013.

A spokesperson for the SMMT said: ‘Total numbers of electric cars on UK roads are still small, but the future for this portion of the market is extremely bright as motorists look for new ways to lower their running costs and environmental impact.

‘SMMT expects that this market will continue to grow rapidly with even more models set for launch this year and increasing numbers of drivers seeing the benefits these new, innovative technologies can offer.’