Electric vehicles are tipped to account for 10% of all auto sales in Europe by the end of 2020 and reach 15% in 2021, according to new analysis by clean transport lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E).
But while the UK is included in this tripling of electric car sales, it may face challenges in maintaining the transition in 2021 if the UK moves away from EU vehicle emissions laws designed to accelerate the adoption on electric vehicles.
Greg Archer, UK director at T&E, said in a statement: “Electric car sales are booming thanks to emissions standards. Next year, one in every seven cars sold in Europe will be a plug-in. European manufacturers have EVs to sell, but from January they’ll have no incentive to sell them in the UK unless the government requires them to do so.”
According to the recent analysis by T&E, EV market share reached 8% by July despite a significant dip in broader auto sales in the first half of 2020, an ongoing trend exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Under the EU laws, car makers must reduce their average vehicle emissions or face big fines, and reduce they have, achieving a 111g/km CO2 emitted by July, down from 122g/km in 2019.
In the report, it is French auto group PSA (which includes Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel and Vauxhall), Japanese car maker Nissan, Tesla/FCA (which have forged an alliance to share credits towards compliance) and BMW which are most on track to meet the tightening standards. Laggards include Kia, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Daimler and Jaguar Land Rover.
Up until now, car makers have been allowed to add sales of electric vehicles towards their emissions reduction efforts.
But from 2021, unless the UK passes its equivalent regulations, the use of UK sales will no longer be allowed to count towards credits.
Forecast 2021 sales show that leaders in terms of EV market share will be FCA/Tesla, Renault (its Zoe electric hatch is a favourite in Europe) and Volkswagen (which has just introduced the ID.3 and has the ID.4 waiting in the wings).
Adding in plug-in hybrid sales and the forecast leaders are Volvo (which is expected to reach almost 30% plug-in market share in 2021), then FCA/Tesla (reaching 23% plug-in market share), BMW and Daimler (20% and 19% respectively).
Across the market, an average 15% market share including both battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles is predicted.
But not in the UK, unless the government acts quickly.
Despite the fact it is planning to ban all sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 and may bring that plan forward to 2030, the T&E analysis says that current drafts of UK regulations contain errors which must be put right in order to be passed by the end of October and come into effect in January.
If they don’t, car makers will direct electric vehicle supplies to EU countries ahead of the UK.
“The electric car is becoming mainstream but we risk turning off the tap in Britain,” Archer said.
“Carmakers will prioritise EV sales in markets where laws and tax breaks encourage them most, but the UK’s proposed standards are too weak and maybe too late.”
It’s a problem we’ve seen here in Australia also, where a complete lack of vehicle emissions regulation has seen Renault withdraw the Zoe electric hatch, and Kia has admitted that its e-Niro and e-Soul have been on hold for a local launch due to the lack of supportive policy.
The UK at least has national goals for transition (while an Australian EV strategy is expected by the end of 2020, the recent federal budget failed to place EVs as a priority) – but even so, the UK may struggle to achieve its transition goals unless adequate laws are put in place.
“Government needs to quickly introduce regulations equivalent to the EU’s in 2021, or demand for electric cars will outstrip available supply and drivers will be left with long waits to secure their new electric car which will be more expensive,” says Archer.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.