New registrations of electric vehicles in Europe

The uptake of electric cars and vans in Europe significantly increased in 2020. Electric car registrations for the year were close to 1,325,000 units, up from 550,000 units in 2019. This represents an increase from 3.5% to 11% of total new car registrations in just 1 year. The uptake of electric vans also increased, from 1.4% of total new registrations in 2019 to 2.2% in 2020. Battery electric vehicles, rather than plug-in hybrids, accounted for the majority of electric vehicle registrations in 2020 for cars and vans.

Published: ‒ 25min read

The transport sector is the largest contributor to EU greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, reducing transport emissions is key to meeting the EU’s climate neutrality objectives.

The recently proposed legislation (Fit for 55) sets targets to cut CO2 emissions from cars by 55% and vans by 50% by 2030 (EU, 2021). It also proposes to completely cut emissions from cars and vans by 2035. A significant increase in the uptake of electric vehicles will be needed to achieve these goals.

Electric cars — battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) — are gradually penetrating the EU market. There has been a steady increase in the number of new electric car registrations annually, from 700 units in 2010 to about 550,000 units in 2019 (3.5% of new registrations). In 2020, electric car registrations surged, accounting for 11% of newly registered passenger cars.

BEVs accounted for 6% of total new car registrations in 2020, while PHEVs represented 5%.

The average mass of a BEV increased from 1,200 kg in 2010 to 1,723 kg in 2019, while average energy consumption decreased from 264 kWh to 170 kWh, indicating that BEVs have become more efficient. PHEVs have become slightly heavier (increasing from 1,580 kg to 1,9300 kg between 2010 and 2020), but their energy consumption remained constant (i.e. around 170 kWh in 2020).

In 2020 almost 30,000 electric vans were sold, representing 2.2% of the market share and an increase of around 0.8 percentage points from 2019. The majority of electric vans sold were BEVs.

Non plug-in hybrid electric vehicles represented 12% of new registrations in 2020, an 8 percentage point increase since 2019. These vehicles combine a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system but are exclusively fuelled by conventional fuels. They are not included in the electric vehicle data presented.

Further growth in Europe’s electric vehicle fleet could help the EU meet emissions reduction targets and ensure progress towards its 2050 objective of being climate neutral.

In 2020, the share of electric vehicles (BEVs and PHEVs) in national new car registrations increased in all countries (EU-27, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom) compared with 2019. The highest shares were found in Norway (75%), Iceland (46%), Sweden (33%) and the Netherlands (28%).

Germany, France and the United Kingdom accounted for about 60% of BEV registrations, with the numbers tripling compared with 2019. In Norway, BEVs accounted for 54% of new car sales in 2020, increasing from 30% in 2018. In some other European countries, however, the percentage of BEV registrations remained below 1% of the total fleet. PHEV sales were highest in Sweden (23%), and Norway and Iceland (20%).

The leading countries in electric mobility offer financial incentives such as tax reductions and exemptions for electric vehicles, designed to make the costs comparable to those of conventional vehicles. Other incentives, such as allowing the use of bus lanes, are also offered.

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