According to Schmidt Automotive Research, the West European passenger car market finished 2020 under 35,000 units behind the Chinese plug-in market. Although that doesn't sound close on the surface, the difference between the two motoring giants at the end of 2019 was still a mammoth 650,000 units. The West European market that includes the original EU member states before the 2004 enlargement plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland saw a near-even split between BEVs and PHEVs contribute to the 1.33 million new passenger cars entering European roads last year. While in China, according to CAAM data, four-in-five of the plug-ins entering roads there were of the pure electric BEV variant last year.
European volumes were boosted by a new increased level of fleet average CO2 emissions levels being enforced across the EU region (including Norway and Iceland as well as a transitional UK) last year. This forced manufacturers that were previously reluctant to introduce less profitable plug-in models to bring these to market in order to meet their CO2 obligations and avoid costly fines for non-compliance. Switzerland also introduced a similar level of new CO2 legislation in 2020, seeing a boost here too.
As part of a Covid economic stimulus package in key European markets, various governments also decided to subsidise electric cars even further. Even more generous purchase and fiscal subsidies were on offer, making the purchase (or lease) of a plug-in even more attractive, to both the wallet and tax bill.
More in-depth analysis is available each month in the European Electric Car Report, available on a monthly or annual basis. The full-year report will be published shortly here