Electric vehicle sales double in Europe as new models drive growth

New models of electric vehicles (EVs) have helped industry sales double annually in Europe since they were first marketed in 2010, according to a new report released today (July 30) by Transport & Environment.

The top three models in terms of sales in 2013 were the Renault Zoe, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Volvo V60 Plug-in – all new models. The report suggested that these new models are achieving greater consumer confidence which is likely to be further enhanced with the launch of the BMW i3 late last year.

Provisional sales figures from the European Environment Agency show that nearly 50,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in 2013, however this only represents around 0.4% of all car sales in the EU.

While the EU’s electronic vehicle market is growing, it remains smaller than the USA and Japanese markets, while in California EVs have achieved a 4% market share, driven by a mandate requiring all manufacturers to sell plug-in vehicles.

The Netherlands and Norway represent success stories for the EV market, with each achieving more than 5% EV sales in 2013, largely boosted by generous fiscal incentives.

If trends continue, Transport & Environment estimate that sales will exceed 1 million a year by 2025 and that this steady growth in the near future is more likely than a sudden uptake in sales.

The report calls for a flexible sales mandate for EVs, similar to the scheme pioneered in California. Transport & Environment argue this would encourage carmakers to ensure that a minimum percentage of sales are ultra-low carbon vehicles while provide flexibility for the industry. The report proposed a mandate of 10% sales by 2025 which would be both achievable and create a pathway to decarbonise vehicles by 2050.

2013 EV sales by model

Transport & Environment also made clear that including road transport emissions under an EU-wide emissions trading scheme could be detrimental to the industry, removing the incentive for carmakers to improve efficiency or lower emissions of vehicles, shift the burden of carbon saving onto industries and have a detrimental impact on the economy.

There remains divided opinion over the future of ultra-low emission vehicles, with carmakers taking different views as to whether battery and hybrid technology or hydrogen fuel cells provide the better long term investment. At present, fuel cell technology lacks the technology or infrastructure, and EVs have a head start in the industry, particularly in Europe where range limitations are less of an obstacle than in the USA.

Global EV sales graph

Transport & Environment programme manager for clean vehicles Greg Archer said: “Electric vehicles can play an important role in the shift to more sustainable mobility, and their increasing sales are being driven by carmakers’ need to innovate to meet EU CO2 regulations.”

Policy makers have started to introduce further incentives for the EV market. In April, the UK government announced it was investing £500m in the ultra-low emission vehicle industry to support research and development as well as spending more than £30m on infrastructure such as rapid charge points.

REPORT: Electric vehicles in 2013 progress report

Matt Field

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