National laws disrupt drive for cleaner cars

October 31, 2016

Countries throughout the European Union (EU) have been urged to focus on a joint strategy to encourage alternative fuels after new figures showed massive discrepancies in demand for cleaner cars between member states.

Sales of plug-in cars including pure electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) grew by nearly 17,000 units for the year to the end of Q3 2016 compared to the same period last year. They reached 105,241 units and accounted for 0.94% of the EU car market.

Plug-in car sales growth is subdued because demand in the Netherlands fell by more than 11,000 units year-on-year following changes to government subsidies.

This contrasts with countries including the UK which saw sales grow by nearly 8,000 units year-on-year over the same period.

Out of 23 EU countries, seven have recorded year-on-year sales increases of more than 1,000 cars (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden), but much of this growth has been offset by countries recording sales declines, mainly in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Outside the EU, Norway’s consistent long-term approach to promoting alternative fuels has lasted decades and electric vehicles now account for 22% of its new car sales.

In the year to the end of Q3 2016, sales of PHEVs in Norway rose by nearly 11,000 units, more than the combined increase in PHEV demand for the entire EU.

Petter Haugneland, communications manager for the Norwegian electric vehicle association, Elbil, said: ‘This growth does not happen by itself. The market needs long-term policy measures to support growth and to ensure there is certainty. Consumers need the confidence to make a purchase they will keep for several years.

‘Companies also need certainty when making substantial investments, including dealerships, charging point providers, servicing equipment firms and so on.’

Norway has seen a year-on-year decline in demand for pure EVs, but Haugneland said this was caused by consumers postponing purchases in anticipation of new models going on sale with longer ranges. Renault recently announced its Zoe EV would have an extended range of more than 400km. General Motors is launching the new Ampera-e and Tesla has opened its order book for the new Model 3. Both have ranges that are close to petrol-powered alternatives.

Demand for hybrid vehicles without plug-in functionality is higher than EVs and PHEVs, as models have been on the market for more than a decade, including the Toyota Prius.

In the year to the end of Q3 2016, there were more than 200,000 sales of hybrid vehicles without plug-in technology, a rise of nearly 43,000 compared to the same period in 2015. Three-quarters of this rise was accounted for by Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Combined sales of all types of alternative fuel cars, including gas-powered cars, reached 440,000, a 4.7% rise compared to 420,000 for the same period last year. However, market share declined slightly to 3.9% as sales growth has not kept pace with rising demand for petrol and diesel vehicles.

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March 31, 2017

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