Market News

 July 30, 2014
Volvo and Renault lead way as electric car sales double in EU

 New models helped sales of electric cars in the European Union double in 2013, but the zero-emission vehicles still only account for one in every 250 new cars sold.

Electric cars are a crucial part of government policies tackling both air pollution and climate change, but car manufacturers have lobbied hard against rules to cut emissions.

Almost 50,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in 2013, up from 22,000 in 2012, with the surge lead by three models that sold about 8,000 each, according to an analysis of official data by the Transport & Environment (T&E) campaign group

The three new models dominating sales were Renault's Zoe, costing from £14,000 after a £5,000 UK government subsidy; Mitsubishi's Outlander costing £28,250 after subsidy, and Volvo's V60 plug-in, priced from £44,275 after subsidy.

"Electric cars are growing strongly, but at the same time the simple truth is that they are too expensive for most people to consider," said T&E's Greg Archer. "But the price will come down over time and you will see this technology start to compete. This is a revolution and it will take time to happen. The hype that surrounded electric vehicles back in 2010 was never going to be delivered."

The sales of 2012's leading cars, the Opel Ampera and Peugeot Citroen iOn/C-zero, both fell sharply in 2012. "What you are seeing is better cars and better services being offered to the market," said Archer. He noted some manufacturers now offered the occasional use of a conventional car for long journeys as part of the sales package, helping to overcome current limitations in battery range.

Archer said that vehicle subsidies were not sustainable and that cutting the permitted overall emissions for the fleet of cars produced by each manufacturer was more effective in incentivising zero-emission cars in coming years. Cars are responsible for 15% of Europe's total CO2 emissions.

Falling EU limits for fleet emissions have been set for 2015 -- which were met two years early -- and for 2021, but a planned consultation on the limit for 2025 or 2030 has been postponed.

"The car industry is certainly pushing back very hard against setting new emissions standards," said Archer, with the German government and its carmakers BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi particularly prominent.

In October 2013, David Cameron and Angela Merkel were accused of negotiating a secret deal in which the UK would support Germany's lobbying for its carmakers in return for support to protect the UK banking sector. In the US, president Barack Obama has set targets for cleaner cars starting in 2017.

On Tuesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson, announced measures to penalise diesel vehicles in order to reduce the city's illegal levels of air pollution. "Electric cars are a big part of solving the air pollution in cities," said Archer. "But we will not see large numbers of electric cars on the roads for a decade, so we need to see other steps as well."