As charging points become more common across Europe consumers are increasingly shifting to electric power for their cars | Credit: Arup
There are now well over one million electric cars in Europe after a sales surge across the region saw the market share of plug-in vehicles hit two per cent in the first half of 2018, according to new industry data.
Sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars were up 42 per cent in the first six months of 2018 according to EV Volumes, compared to the first six months of 2017. The sales boost amounts to 195,000 electric vehicles being sold across the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland between January and June 2018.
Growth is being driven by strong sales in Germany in particular, where 2018 sales are expected to hit 88,500, EV Volumes said. Meanwhile, Norway still has by far the largest market share of plug-in vehicles, with almost half of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles expected to be plug-in by the end of the year.
However, the analysts pointed out that all European markets posted strong growth in EV sales over the period thanks to the falling list price of EVs, favourable tax rates, lower operating costs, and rapidly improving charging infrastructure.
The update provide less encouraging news for the hydrogen car market however, with just 87 fuel-cell vehicles sold during the first six months of 2018, compared to 66 in the first half of 2017. The market is still growing and is expected to scale up, especially amongst commercial fleets, as re-fuelling infrastructure improves, but the sector continues to lag far behind its plug-in electric rival.
For the full year EV Volumes expects an additional 430,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold in 2018, taking the overall total on European roads to more than 1.3 million vehicles, representing a 2.35 per cent share of new sales.
The encouraging new figures come as China, the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, is considering new rules to curb the production of gasoline and diesel cars in a bid to further encourage the uptake of electric cars.
According to plans published last week by the Chinese government’s economic planning ministry the NRDC, officials will not approve any new factories producing only fossil fuel-powered vehicles under the new rules.
Manufacturers will also not be allowed to increase their production of fossil fuel cars at existing sites unless they can prove their output of ‘new energy vehicles’ – that is hydrogen, hybrid, and fully electric cars – has been above average for the last two years. And a further new planning standard would require any new electric vehicle factories to produce at least 100,000 units a year.
The moves are expected to help China towards its target of producing one million electric vehicles this year, up from just 8,200 vehicles in 2011 and halfway towards the government’s target of two million units a year by 2020.
The transition to zero emission vehicles is seen by many environmentalists and scientists as vital for improving poor air quality in cities around the world, which research this week revealed is responsible for significant health impacts including a “huge” reduction in intelligence.
The research, which was conducted in China, found that high air pollution led to worse performance on test scores in language and arithmetic, equivalent to a year’s worth of education. The effect is worse for males and those aged over 65 the study found, which the scientists warned could adversely affect people making crucial financial decisions about their retirement.
Xi Chen at the Yale School of Public Health in the US and a member of the research team, told the Guardian there is no “shortcut” to solving the issue other than by clamping down on the sources of air pollution. “Governments really need to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution,” he said. “That may benefit human capital, which is one of the most important driving forces of economic growth.”
Concerns remain about the reach of EV charging networks amd the speed at which polluting vehicles, but the latest sales figures and increasingly positive policy environment provide further evidence that electric transport is fast approaching the mainstream. With analysts suggesting the tipping point at which EVs can undercut conventional cars on both upfront and running costs could come as soon as the early 2020s, it looks as if the sector could keep on accelerating for years to come.