New study highlights lack of progress on infrastructure and incentives for alternatively-powered cars

On 17 April 2019, the European Parliament and Council adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/631 introducing CO2 emission standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in the EU. This regulation set reduction targets of -15% and -37.5% for the tailpipe CO2 emissions of newly-registered passenger cars for the years 2025 and 2030 respectively. In 2023, the European Commission will review the Regulation, reporting back to the European Parliament and Council on the progress made towards reaching the car CO2 targets. Amongst other things, this ‘mid-term review’ will take stock of the roll-out of charging and refuelling infrastructure for alternatively-powered vehicles, their market uptake, as well as CO2 reductions from the car fleet.

Now, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has published the report “Making the Transition to Zero-Emission Mobility“, that tracks the availability of infrastructure and incentives, ahead of the review of the CO2 targets by the European Commission in 2023. According to the report, sales of alternatively-powered passenger cars – including electrically-chargeable, hybrid, fuel cell and natural gas-powered vehicles – will have to pick up strongly if the targets are to be achieved. To stimulate these sales, governments across the EU need to ramp up investments in charging and refuelling infrastructure, and to put in place meaningful purchase incentives for consumers (such as bonus payments and premiums).

ACEA’s report shows that in 2018 there were less than 145,000 charging points for electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECVs) available throughout the entire European Union. Although this is three times more than five years ago, it still falls far short of the at least 2.8 million charging points that will be required by 2030, which translates into a 20-fold increase in the next decade.

But it is not only the overall lack of infrastructure that poses a problem, it is also the huge imbalance in its distribution across the EU. Indeed, four countries covering roughly one quarter of the EU’s total surface area – the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK – account for more than 75% of all ECV charging points.

In addition, there is a clear link between the market uptake of ECVs and the number of charging points per 100km of road: almost all EU countries with less than 1 charging point per 100 km of road also have an ECV market share of under 1%.

Another major issue is affordability. The new ACEA data shows that the market uptake of electrically-chargeable vehicles is also directly correlated to a country’s standard of living. All EU member states with an ECV market share that is less than 1% have a GDP per capita below €29,000. That includes many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, but also Greece, Italy and Spain.

Key findings

Market uptake of alternatively-powered cars

  • 2% of all cars sold in 2018 were electrically-chargeable (+1.4 percentage points since 2014).
  • 3.8% of new passenger cars in the EU were hybrid electric last year (+2.4 percentage points over the last five years).
  • 0.4% of all cars sold in 2018 were natural gas-powered (-0.4 percentage points since 2014).
  • Fuel cell vehicles currently account for a negligible share of total EU car sales.

CO2 emissions of new passenger cars

  • In 2017, petrol cars became the most sold type in the EU for the first time since 2009.
  • 2017 also marked the first increase (+0.3%) in CO2 from new cars since records began.
  • 2018 saw an even bigger drop in diesel sales, and a stronger surge in demand for petrol, resulting in a 1.8% increase of new-car CO2 emissions.

Affordability

  • The market uptake of electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECVs) is directly correlated to a country’s GDP per capita, showing that affordability is a major barrier to consumers.
  • All countries with an ECV market share of less than 1% have a GDP below €29,000, including EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe, but also Spain, Italy and Greece.
  • An ECV share of above 3.5% only occurs in countries with a GDP of more than €42,000.
  • Only 12 EU countries offer bonus payments or premiums to buyers of ECVs. These purchase incentives, and especially their monetary value, differ greatly across the European Union.
  • Expanding the scope to also include tax exemptions and reductions (ie related to acquisition and ownership), four member states do not offer any tax benefits or incentives for ECVs at all.

Infrastructure availability

  • Although there has been a strong growth in the deployment of ECV infrastructure, the total number of charging points available across the EU (144,000) falls far short of what is required.
  • According to conservative estimates by the European Commission, at least 2.8 million charging points will be needed by 2030. That is a 20-fold increase within the next 12 years.
  • Four countries covering 27% of the EU’s total surface area – the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK – account for 76% of all ECV charging points in the EU.
  • Almost all EU member states with less than 1 charging point per 100 km of road have an ECV market share of under 1%.
  • There were just 47 hydrogen filling stations available across 11 EU countries in 2018.
  • 17 member states did not have a single hydrogen filling station.
  • There are some 3,400 natural gas filling stations in the EU, up 17.5% since 2014.
  • Two-thirds of these filling points are concentrated in two countries (Italy and Germany).

Source: ACEA