Electric cars to triple market share in Europe amid Covid-19, researchers say

European sales of electric cars such as the Honda E have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
European sales of electric cars such as the Honda E have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Supplied

Electric vehicles made up 8% of car sales in Europe in the first half of 2020, putting them on track to triple their market share this year, according to analysis by the NGO Transport & Environment (T&E).

While the coronavirus pandemic has seen overall car sales plummet, sales of electric cars — which T&E defined as both battery and plug-in hybrid models — have increased.

This saw electric cars more than triple their market share in the European Economic Area (EEA), compared with the first half of last year, T&E said. Outright sales of such vehicles are expected to roughly double this year, to a million units, it said.

T&E attributed the sales increase to tougher European Union car emissions standards, which took effect this year, and post-pandemic purchase incentives in Germany and France.

The NGO expects car makers to meet the 2020 emissions standards, which would see electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles triple their market share in 2020 to 10% of EEA car sales.

“It is because of the EU emissions standards, but it is also thanks to many investments carmakers made last year,” report co-author Julia Poliscanova said.

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said electric vehicle sales have been boosted by national support schemes to foster economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic but that this trend was not necessarily a long-term one.

“It is difficult to make any predictions on future long-term shifts in consumer behaviour from such 'artificial' growth driven by subsidies,” ACEA said.

T&E urged the EU to set tougher future emissions targets to ensure electric vehicles keep edging out polluting models.

Fuel-guzzling SUVs also increased their market share, to 39%, in the first half of 2020.

The European Commission has already outlined plans to further tighten car CO2 limits as part of its proposal for a tougher 2030 EU climate goal.

ACEA said policymakers needed to strengthen charging infrastructure and schemes to make zero-emissions vehicles affordable before considering tighter CO2 standards.


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