Alternative-fuel vehicles as a proportion of the total fleet

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-108-en
Also known as: TERM 034
Created 10 Nov 2017 Published 28 Nov 2017 Last modified 28 Nov 2017
10 min read
Topics: , ,
Compared with 2015, sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the EU-28 increased by 13 % in 2016, slowing down a steep upward trend since 2008.  Nevertheless, electric vehicles (EVs) continue to  constitute only a very small fraction of new vehicle registrations . According to the most recent estimates, the number of alternative fuel passenger cars as a proportion of the total fleet passed 5 % in 2016, with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cars making up the largest portion. The number of  electric vehicles (EVs) has grown, although it represents a minor proportion (0.13 %) of total passenger car fleet numbers.

Key messages

  • Compared with 2015, sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the EU-28 increased by 13 % in 2016, slowing down a steep upward trend since 2008. Nevertheless, electric vehicles (EVs) continue to constitute only a very small fraction of new vehicle registrations.
  • According to the most recent estimates, the number of alternative fuel passenger cars as a proportion of the total fleet passed 5 % in 2016, with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cars making up the largest portion. The number of electric vehicles (EVs) has grown, although it represents a minor proportion (0.13 %) of total passenger car fleet numbers.

Are alternative-fuel powered vehicles increasing as a proprotion of the total vehicle fleet?

New registrations of alternative-fuel passenger cars

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Alternative-fuel passenger cars as a proportion of total passenger car fleet

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Alternative-fuel vehicles as a proportion of the total fleet

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Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cars dominate the alternative-fuel passenger car fleet. The number of LPG passenger cars almost doubled between 2005 and 2015, reaching 10 million vehicles in 2016. Poland and Italy are the leading countries in the EU-28 with 2.60 million and 2.55 million cars respectively. LPG vehicles account for about 3.2 % of the overall passenger car fleet in the EEA-33. This figure has remained rather constant over the last five years. Registrations of new LPG passenger cars peaked in 2009 at 3.6 % of new registrations, while alternative fuelled car registrations accounted for 3.7 % of of total registrations in the same year. After a sharp decrease following the economic downturn, registrations of new LPG vehicles remained broadly constant until 2015. In 2016, new registrations of LPG vehicles increased significantly, with Poland reporting information indicating that 34 % of new vehicle sales comprised LPG vehicles. Further investigation is required in order to ensure that fuel type is reported in accordance with the guidelines.

The number of natural gas (NG) passenger cars almost tripled between 2005 and 2015, although it fell by 27 % in 2016 compared with 2015. NG passenger cars still represent just 1.7 % of the total passenger car fleet and the number of NG passenger cars is only significant in the United Kingdom and Italy (1.6 and 1.3 million, respectively), with only small numbers (a few thousand) to be found in other EU Member States. 

The pollutant emissions of properly adjusted LPG and NG vehicles should differ little from petrol vehicles. This is because all three fuels generally contain the same families of chemicals (paraffinic hydrocarbons — petrol also contains aromatics) and because the spark ignition combustion process is similar for both fuels. Only methane (CH4) emissions from NG vehicles are substantially higher than petrol, as the fuel is 90 % methane, which is relatively difficult to ignite in cold areas within the combustion chamber.

LPG has approximately 80 % of the energy content of petrol per litre, while the volumetric energy content of NG ranges from five times less than that of petrol for compressed natural gas to 1.8 times less for liquefied natural gas. Despite the energy content disadvantage, both alternative fuels are considered to be promising fuels for the future, mainly because of their widespread availability and alternative energy pathway to oil, as well as the low CO2 yield per unit of energy delivered.

Electric cars are slowly penetrating the EU market. These include battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and electric vehicles with a range extender (REEV). Despite their small numbers (about 268 000) and their small market share (about 0.13 % of the total passenger car fleet), the number of new electric car registrations in the EU has been increasing steadily over the last few years. Sales of BEVs increased by 13 % in 2016 compared with 2015. This continues an increasing trend from 2008 and BEVs comprised 0.4 % of total new passenger car registrations in the EU-28 in 2016. France tops the rankings with 22 683 BEVs sold in 2016, followed by Germany with 11 444. Outside the EU, almost one third of all new cars sold in Norway during 2016 were electric (including PHEVs and BEVs). Among EEA member countries, this makes Norway a leading market for electric vehicles in terms of market share. Most countries in Europe offer financial incentives such as tax reductions and exemptions for electrically charging vehicles. Such incentives can include, for example, exemptions from one-off purchase tax (making the cost comparable with conventional vehicles), VAT exemption, use of bus lanes etc.

Compared with passenger cars, the percentage of alternative-fuel light commercial vehicles (LCV) and buses is low, with numbers around 1.5 % of the total LCV fleet and 2.1 % of the bus fleet in 2016, respectively.

The trend in NG buses has been increasing over the years, although they only accounted for 1.3 % of the total bus fleet in 2016. The numbers of LPG and electric (mainly trolley) buses are much lower and have remained rather constant over the last 4-5 years. France, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Spain are the only countries with significant numbers (i.e. above 600) of NG buses.

Numbers of LPG light commercial vehicles (LCVs) remain rather stable, but they only account for about 0.9 % of the total LCV fleet, whereas the number of NG LCVs is much smaller at about 0.5 %. Poland is the only country with a significant number of LPG LCVs (around 172 000) and Italy has the highest number of NG LCVs (about 109 000). The registration of new alternative-fuel LCVs remains low; in 2016, 1.8 % of all new vans were alternative-fuel LCVs.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

This indicator measures alternative-fuel vehicles as a proportion of the total vehicle fleet. This is defined as the number of vehicles (by vehicle type and fuel) per total number of vehicles (by vehicle type).

Units

The units used in this indicator are the total number of passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and buses by alternative fuel type (LPG, NG and electric).


Policy context and targets

Context description

A number of policies have been adopted that contribute to meeting targets set at EU level. This includes the 20-20-20 policy package, which came into force in 2009. This package sets two targets: an overarching 20 % cut in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe below 1990 levels by 2020; and a 60 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport below 1990 levels by 2050, as set out in the 2011 Transport White Paper. 

The CO2 emission targets for new cars and vans contribute to meeting these two targetsRegulation No 443/2009 sets a CO2 'specific emission' target of 130 grams per kilometre (g/km) by 2015 for new passenger cars sold in the EU. A long-term target of 95 g/km has been set for 2020. Specific targets for vans have also been introduced in Regulation No 510/2011. The first target level (175 g/km) has been phased in since 2014 and will be reached in 2017, and a second target level (147 g/km) should be reached in 2020.

Targets

There are no specific objectives or targets related to the number of different types of alternative fuel vehicles as a proportion of the total vehicle fleet. Policy objectives are rather set with respect to the environmental performance of newly registered passenger cars and vans.

Related policy documents

  • REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
    Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
  • REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011
    REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Alternative-fuel vehicles (LPG, NG, electric) as a proportion of the total vehicle fleet for each vehicle type (passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, buses) is calculated by dividing the number of alternative fuel vehicles by the total fleet for each vehicle type.

Methodology for gap filling

Data gaps are filled either by interpolation, where data between reported data are missing, or by using the first (or last) reported value.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not available.

Data sets uncertainty

The data on the stock of alternative-fuel vehicles mostly come from statistical sources and are hence considered reliable. Data on new registrations are also reliable as they are officially submitted by EU Member States as part of their CO2 reporting obligations. Sibyl and EC4MACS have been used to fill data gaps.

Rationale uncertainty

Not available.

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
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DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Diana Vedlugaite

EEA Management Plan

2017 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100