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ACEA: data show EU market for electric cars highly fragmented; need for inclusive measures

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has published new data demonstrating the correlation between the market uptake of electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECVs) and both GDP and customer incentives. Based on these new findings, ACEA calls for an ambitious but more realistic approach to the electrification of Europe’s car fleet, just before the European Commission releases its proposal for post-2021 CO2 targets for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles next week.

ACEA’s new data shows that an ECV market share of above 1% only occurs in Western European countries with a GDP per capita of more than €30,000 (US$35,000). By contrast, almost half of all EU member states have an ECV market share of 0.5% or lower. In countries with a GDP per capita below €17,000 (US$20,000) the market share remains close to zero—including the new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as crisis-torn Greece. Affordability is clearly a major barrier.

Our data demonstrate that, even though it is growing, the European market for ECVs remains extremely patchy, which makes it difficult to envisage anything like an EU-wide mandate or crediting system.

Many people take the Norwegian market as a benchmark. But just like its €64,000 GDP, more than twice the EU average, Norway’s ECV share of 29% is an exception in Europe. Nobody looks at Greece for instance, where only 32 electrically-chargeable cars were sold last year. This should be a wake-up call for policy makers. Future decarbonization measures should be inclusive, rather than assuming that all countries are in the same position as a handful of advanced ECV markets.

—ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert

ECV market share of 5 biggest EU car markets in 2016
Country Share [%] ECV Units sold GDP per capita
Germany 0.8 25,214 €37,900
United Kingdom 1.4 36,917 €36,100
France 1.4 29,189 €33,400
Italy 0.2 2,827 €27,600
Spain 0.3 3,654 €24,000

Lowest ECV market share in EU in 2016
Country Share [%] ECV Units sold GDP per capita
Bulgaria 0.05 21 €6,600
Greece 0.04 32 €16,300
Estonia 0.20 35 €15,900

The figures also show that customer incentives for purchasing ECVs, and especially their monetary value, differ greatly across Europe. The market share of ECVs is only significant in countries which offer extensive incentives. Many of the new EU member states with a low ECV market share merely offer an exemption from the annual circulation tax for electric vehicles.

Five EU member states don’t offer any incentives at all: Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta and Poland.

Even though all manufacturers are expanding their portfolios of electric vehicles, we unfortunately see that market penetration of these vehicles is still very low and very fragmented across the EU. Consumers looking for an alternative to diesel now often opt for petrol vehicles or hybrid ones, but aren’t yet making the switch to electrically-chargeable cars on a large scale.

In other words, the final product alone—no matter how good it is—is not sufficient to create demand. As well as harmonized and coherent consumer incentives to stimulate sales, we need more investments in recharging and refueling infrastructure in all EU member states, before we can expect consumers throughout the EU to really embrace alternatively-powered vehicles.

—Erik Jonnaert

ACEA members hope that the European Commission’s upcoming CO2 proposal for cars and light duty vehicles will take this into account.


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