Europe’s biggest carmakers ‘not on track’ for EV transition

Even the best performers in the report were deemed to be 70% ready for the EV transition

Published today (16 June), the campaign group’s latest analysis looks at whether carmakers are on track to deliver their commitments on launching new EVs and phasing out petrol and diesel. IHS Markit’s car production forecast has been used to inform this analysis, along with public information on scaling battery manufacturing, charging infrastructure and other EV platforms and services.

The report also assesses whether the carmakers’ pledges are conductive with the EU’s 2050 net-zero target. The bloc is notably facing pressure to follow the UK’s lead and set a ban on new petrol and diesel car sales to help deliver this long-term vision. Potential dates of 2030 and 2035 have been floated.

Ten major businesses are assessed in the report, with Transport & Environment concluding that, despite an uptick in EV commitments, plans for delivery generally remain insufficient.

Only two of the ten carmakers – Volvo and Volkswagen – have set pledges conducive to net-zero by 2050 and backed them up with credible EV transition plans, the report concludes. Each of these firms received a 70% ‘readiness’ score for the transition overall.

Toyota, meanwhile, came bottom of the table with 35%. The brand has no EV commitments for 2030 and is on track for just 10% of its production to be accounted for by pure EVs by 2025, according to the report.

Transport & Environment is particularly concerned that Toyota and others are relying too heavily on plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) in their strategies. PHEV production is due to peak in 2026, when 1.6 million units may be produced collectively by the 10 businesses, the report states.

Policy support

Transport & Environment’s senior director for vehicles and e-mobility Julia Poliscanova said: “Carmakers are desperate to show off their green credentials, but the reality is most of them are miles away from where they need to be. Even those that are ambitious lack a suitable strategy to get there. Carmakers have failed to deliver on their promises before, who says this time will be different?” 

Here, she is referring to the industry’s collective failure to ensure that  EVs accounted for 3.6% of sales by 2016.

But, even if the 10 businesses analysed meet their commitments, the report warns, this will not be enough – at least 10% fewer EVs will be sold across the EU by 2030 than needed.

As such, Transport & Environment is calling on EU regulators to set legally binding targets on emissions from cars and on the proportion of car sales which should be accounted for by EVs. On the former, tailpipe emissions should be at least 40% lower in 2027 than in 2019. On the latter, the campaign group is recommending that two-thirds of new cars sold in 2030 need to be pure EVs, rising to 100% by 2035.

“Targets need to be gradually tightened so that carmakers not only commit to phasing out fossil fuels but develop a strategy that gets them there on time,” Poliscanova summarised.

Green steel deal

In related news, Volvo has inked a deal with steel giant SSAB to source fossil-free ‘green’ steel.

Under the deal, steel produced using renewable electricity and low-carbon hydrogen will be supplied to Volvo for testing purposes, with a view to developing a concept car. The manufacturing processes associated with this steel have “virtually no carbon footprint”, SSAB claims.

For Volvo Cars, 35% of the total emissions related to materials and component production for petrol and diesel cars is accounted for by steel and iron production. The proportion stands at 20% for pure EVs. How ‘green’ steel could reduce these figures will be determined through the tests.

SSAB is aiming to supply fossil-free steel to sectors including the automotive industry at a commercial scale by 2026. It is working with energy and battery firm Vattenfall and iron ore producer LKAB to deliver this vision.

Sarah George

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