Germany has passed a remarkable milestone on the road to clean transport: every fifth car that rolls off the production line in Europe’s biggest economy is now a plug-in electric car.
March data from Germany’s leading automotive industry association, VDA, reviewed by auto analyst Matthias Schmidt, reveals that after a sluggish start to the year the German car manufacturing sector is now outputting a record 74,000 plug-in electric cars a month.
This includes both battery-electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and is the fifth consecutive month where German’s plug in vehicle production output has exceeded 15% of its total market.
German powerhouse brands like Daimler, the Volkswagen group (which also includes Porsche, Audi, Skoda, and Seat) and BMW are leading the way. The Volkswagen brand is now the third-largest EV maker worldwide after Tesla and the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Germany makes between five and six million cars every year, which Schmidt says means by years’ end Germany’s EV output will approach one million.
Whether there is any chance of exceeding that number will depend on Volkswagen’s planned production increase at its Zwickau factory and the imminent opening of Tesla’s Berlin gigafactory.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk visited Berlin this week amid reports that the factory’s launch would be delayed and Teslarati reports Musk said he thinks it will be open by the end of 2021.
That won’t be a moment too soon: Tesla has now stabilised its market share decline, having lost ground to Volkswagen in 2020 which has now proven considerable interest in its ID.3 and ID.4.
But how many of these 74,000 plug-in electrics made in March were actually fully battery electric?
As Belgium-based clean transport lobby group Transport & Environment points out, how “clean” PHEVs are depends on how often they are charged, and how they are driven particularly when it comes to “low emissions zones” in place in many European cities.
According to Schmidt, the percentage is now exceeding 10% which means the mix between BEV and PHEV is now fifty-fifty. The European average is 8.2%. That’s a far cry from the embarrassing 1% or so (including approximate Tesla sales) in Australia.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She 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.