Europe’s affinity for electric cars has officially moved into top gear, with an industry report showing the total number of plug-in vehicles across all countries combined has passed one million and could well reach the 1.3 million mark by year end.
The continent raced to the million milestone ahead of the United States, which will likely reach the same number later this year pending orders for Tesla’s new Model 3 electric vehicles (EVs), but almost a year behind China’s much larger automotive market.
Data collection and analysis firm EV Volumes this week published performance figures for the European car market which showed a 42% increase in sales of electric vehicles for the first half of 2018, when compared the previous corresponding period.
The figures included fully-electric cars and vans, as well as plug-in hybrid ones, which can travel a short distance off battery power before switching to a conventional engine.
Around 195,000 units were sold throughout Europe in the six months to June 2018 – giving EVs a 2% share of the total auto market – and expectations are high for sales to surpass 400,000 units by year end.
A rise in the number of electric models for motorists to choose from has been cited as one of the reasons for the accelerated growth – since mid-2017, five new vehicles have been added to the market, taking the total available across Europe to 56, comprising 27 battery electric models and 29 plug-in hybrids.
“It is a good indication that the 42% sales increase is not just product-driven; it is also the result of better awareness and insight, in the industry and among car buyers,” the report stated.
Norway ahead of the pack
Norway raced ahead of 14 other European nations, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden, to take top honours in the sales-by-country rankings, with 36,500 plug-ins delivered domestically in the first half of 2018 and a targeted year end total of 84,000.
The country is considered a leader in the adoption of EV technology and Norway’s government has targeted 2025 as the goal for all new cars to have zero emissions.
This compares to an all-electric goal of 2040 in the UK, and comes with sweet incentives for motorists such as zero import taxes and VAT charges, as well as exemptions from road tolls, road taxes and inner-city parking fees.
“The plug-in share in Norway is off the chart, as usual, with 37% [market share] year to date,” EV Volumes said in its report.
“EV awareness in Norway started some years ahead of other countries thanks to clear, stable incentives in form of generous tax and toll savings… they have become the smart choice for light duty transport.”
Rapid growth in Germany means Europe’s biggest car market may just overtake Norway’s total sales by year end.
Public charging locations
As Europe moves towards its 1.3 million EVs goal, consumers will likely be required to power up their cars at home before heading out each day if the number of public charging locations remains limited.
At the end of 2017, Europe had around 80,000 public charging locations and although this number is expected to increase 25% to reach 100,000 by year end, EV Volumes cautioned it may fall short of demand.
“The number of public charging locations does not keep pace anymore… unless public charging becomes easier and more reliable, it will restrict all EV adoption,” it said.
In May, some of Europe’s biggest car manufacturers announced they would join forces to improve the EV charging experience – and simultaneously, encourage EV sales – by building a network of reliable and powerful charging stations along major highway routes.
Since its launch, the Ionity joint venture between BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group has opened stations in Germany, Switzerland and France.
Despite a slower-than-expected start, the joint venture is confident it will reach its goal of 400 ultra-fast charging stations, averaging six charging places each, by 2020.
EV car sharing initiative
In related news, Volkswagen Group this week announced it will rollout 1500 e-Golf vehicles in Berlin during early 2019 as part of an all-electric car sharing initiative.
The service is the first to be launched under Volkswagen’s ‘We Share’ ridesharing platform, which the company will introduce to other large cities in Germany before launching across Europe and the United States.
The move comes ahead of Germany’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles and forms part of Volkswagen’s EV expansion, which will see the company produce an electric version of each of its vehicles by 2030.