Tesla, Volkswagen and Renault led a landmark moment in the auto industry in Europe in September, when more electrified vehicles were sold than diesel-fuelled cars.
More than 300,000 auto sales in September were electrified, accounting for 25% of sales for the first time ever as diesel sales fell to 24.8%, down from half of all sales in 2010. Almost half of those electric sales were for plug in electric cars.
The new figures released by European auto industry analytics JATO show that the path to recovery for the auto industry – after a 29 per cent drop worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic – will be driven by battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) and non-pluggable hybrid vehicles (HEVs).
September sales saw a small 1.2% increase in car sales year-on-year in Europe, but more telling is the nosedive in diesel sales compared to a marked increase in electrified sales.
Tesla sold 15,702 Model 3 electric sedans, gaining first place in the electric segment, as well as beating 15,093 hybrid Corolla sales by Toyota.
Tesla has long been a driver of EV sales in Europe, but it now has local players to contend with as it works to complete its Berlin gigafactory and begin its planned onslaught of Model Y crossovers.
Renault followed Tesla in the electric segment with 11,023 Zoes sold, and Volkswagen followed third with an encouraging 7,897 ID.3 electric hatches sold.
While Tesla led, despite a 5% drop in sales compared to September 2019, both Renault and Volkswagen saw massive increases (211% and 352% respectively).
Overall, Volkswagen is now the leading BEV maker as well as the second most popular seller of all electrified vehicles in Europe (only after Toyota) having sold 40,300 BEV, PHEV and HEV in total.
The statistics highlight the difference that policy can make to a market, and yet again underline the dearth of similar EV policy in Australia. And while the ACT will now lock in wider EV support thanks to Labor and Greens inking a power sharing agreementin the legislative assembly, this is but one shining light in the bleak Australian climate policy landscape.
In 2021, the European Union’s vehicle emissions regulations are set to reduce to an average of 95gm of carbon dioxide emitted per kilometre, per vehicle.
Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics, says policy is driving the shift but part of the picture is consumer acceptance. Because more people now see others driving electric, perceptions that EVs are underpowered or can’t drive far enough, are being broken down.
“The shift from ICEs to EVs is finally taking place. Although this is largely down to government policies and incentives, consumers are also now ready to adopt these new technologies,” said Munoz.
However, there is criticism that financial incentives guided by such policies may also having an unintended effect as consumer’s still prefer SUVs over other passenger vehicles.
The German Greens party has pointed out a fivefold increase in large plug-in hybrid SUVs fed by German incentives, which have been called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by Greenpeace.
Likewise, JATO’s figures show across Europe the preference for large SUVs is equal to the two next largest segments (compact and sub-compact) combined, boosted by sales of the newly introduced Ford Puma, of which 69% were the mild-hybrid version.
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.