With more electric cars on our roads than ever before, this eco-friendly mode of transport is becoming more and more viable – especially for those who live in cities. Battery prices are coming down and with companies like Volvo pledging for all its cars to be electric or hybrid within 3 years, the future seems bright. Predictions say electric cars are poised to take over the motor industry in the very near future, so we thought we’d take a look into the current state of affairs in Europe and across the world. 

A new report from the International Energy Agency[1] puts the total number of electric vehicles on our roads at over 2 million in 2016. That’s a staggering figure, given that just five years earlier there were virtually none at all.

The report found that China’s electric car sales accounted for more than 40% of the total units sold worldwide in 2016. That’s impressive, but doesn’t quite tell the full story of how widespread Electric Vehicles (EVs) are in each country. To do that, let’s look at EV sales stacked against population size:

Electric car per capita

Electric vehicle sales per million people

What’s driving electric car sales around the world? 

The Paris Climate Agreement sets out an action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. An important part of this plan is to encourage the sale of electric vehicles over fossil fuel-powered vehicles. However, with a basic hatchback coming in at around £20,000 (£3,000 more than the average petrol-powered version), plus battery rental, governments are relying on financial incentives to encourage sales. We’ve been doing some digging to find out how government incentives across Europe have been promoting EV sales, and who is having the most success!

1. Norway

Topping the charts worldwide for electric car market share is Norway – current figures are showing that 35% of Norway’s total car sales are electric vehicles. These are huge figures for such a small country, but the key is in the government incentives – tax exemptions, free parking, use of bus lanes and zero toll payments. Money talks! 

Electric cars per capita; Norway
Electric cars per capita; Netherlands

2. The Netherlands

This is a great example of how incentives can make or break the EV market. In 2011, the government introduced a scheme of total tax exemption which strongly encouraged growth in sales, hitting a peak during 2013. This was so impactful because, for an average fossil fuel-powered vehicle, annual road tax alone ranges from around 550 - 1250 euros. However, the moment the incentives were restricted in 2014, sales dropped. During 2015, sales hit an all-time high as people rushed out to buy an EV [2] before the incentives were restricted further at the beginning of 2016. 

3. Sweden

The Swedes have something called the “super green car rebate” at the heart of their EV incentives scheme, buyers receive over £3,000 cash back when they purchase a car emitting less than 50g of CO2 per kilometre. There have been some issues along the way with government funding struggling to keep up with the pace of sales [3]. 

Electric cars per capita
Electric cars per capita; Denmark

4. Denmark

Vehicle taxes in Denmark can be incredibly steep – around 180% of the purchase value for most cars, so the large tax breaks on electric cars which were introduced back in 2009 proved incredibly popular. However, the gradual phase out of these tax breaks for electric cars led to a huge drop in sales from 2015 onwards. As a result, the Danish government has had to back track on its plans for an increase to a 40% tax rate for electric cars in 2017 and will now cap it at 20% for the first 5000 vehicles sold this year [4]. 

5. Belgium

Belgium has seen a slow and steady rise in electric vehicle sales over the last decade with regional incentives proving popular. Large tax deductions and so-called eco-bonus schemes have helped the country hit a peak market share of 2%. 

Electric cars per capita; Belgium
Electric cars per capita; Austria

6. Austria

Similarly, Austria’s policy has involved a combination of tax breaks and bonus schemes. Market share for electric vehicles hit a peak of 1.6% and looks to be on an upward trajectory. 

7. France

Over the years, France has implemented a series of incentives aimed at stimulating growth of the EV market. Most recently, a very generous ‘super-bonus’ of up to 10,000 euros was introduced for buyers who scrap old diesel-powered vehicles when they buy an electric car. 

Electric cars per capita; France
Electric cars per capita; UK

8. United Kingdom

During 2013, the UK government implemented a grant scheme of 25% towards the cost of a new plug-in car (capped at £5000). In 2016, this was raised to 35% but the maximum grant was lowered to £4,500, and tax incentives were introduced to encourage businesses to purchase low emission vehicles, such as electric cars. 

9. Germany

Germany’s electric vehicle market has been slow off the mark compared to other European countries. This is perhaps due to limited financial incentives over the last decade. To address this, the German government has this year introduced a discount of up to 4000 euros for all electric cars, and 3000 euros for plug in hybrids. The results speak for themselves! 

Electric cars per capita; Germany
Electric cars per capita; Ireland

10. Ireland

Sales of electric vehicles in Ireland did not start to pick up until 2013, when the government introduced a registration tax exemption which was in place until 2016. Sales were kept afloat thanks to a generous 5000 euro grant for the purchase of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.  Even at its peak, the market share remains low at just 0.5% during 2017.

Electric car charging points – who is leading the charge? 

The European Clean Power for Transport directive set a target of one publicly available charging point for every 10 electric cars by 2020. Most countries are currently well ahead of their targets, however, as the market for electric cars expands, infrastructure needs to keep up!

Here’s a look at how European countries are faring against their targets:

Electric car charging points

[1]  https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GlobalEVOutlook2017.pdf
[2] https://evobsession.com/ev-sales-in-the-netherlands-reached-all-time-high-in-december-2015/
[3] http://www.theicct.org/blogs/staff/lessons-learned-sweden-EV-rollercoaster
[4] https://electrek.co/2017/04/19/denmark-electric-vehicle-incentive/

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