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Executive Summary – Full Year 2021 European Electric Car Study


Key points:

  • BEVs surpassed diesels for the first time in December. 20.4% of all new passenger car volumes in Western Europe were BEV while <19% were diesel (inc. hybrid). Diesels peaked in the region in 2011 – prior to 2015's dieselgate – at 55.5% annually, contributed to a pull-forward in cheap petrol models following the post-2008 credit-crisis and subsequent scrappage incentives .

  • W-European new BEV passenger car registrations reached 1.2M units (11.2% 1,190,741) in 2021. Volumes increased by 63.6% over previous year levels. In the final month of the year total plug-ins accounted for just under a third of the market (31.6%), helped by a tougher CO2 compliance push.

  • The final quarter (Oct-Dec) of 2021 saw a record over 408,000 BEV units (prev. record: Q4 2020 320,000) enter the region's roads or 17.3% of Q4’s total new passenger car market.

  • Tesla and CO2 regulation were big drivers with the semiconductor crisis inadvertently helping boost BEV penetration as they carbon off-set higher-emitting profitable ICE models as both received preferential chip quotas. Bentley and Porsche set record global volumes in 2021.

  • Top BEV OEM Group: VW Group

  • Top BEV brand: Tesla

  • Top Model: Tesla Model 3 (x2 as many as the next best model)

  • CO2 emissions from new car registrations in Germany fell to within 1g/km of France in December.

  • 2022 outlook: Slowing penetration growth as the total market is expected to return towards the end of the year.


Schmidt Automotive Research logo

Like an icebreaker navigating through the thawing North Sea Route (NSR) shipping passage, on the northern fringes of Russia, West European plug-in passenger car registrations, including plug-in hybrids, already crashed past diesel-powered ICE cars for the first time earlier this year (August). With the EV route open and the acceptance of plug-ins growing, December was the turn of BEVs alone to plough past new diesel cars (inc. hybrids). BEVs accounted for one-fifth (20.4%) of the December new passenger car market across the 18 market West European region, while diesels managed less than 19%, according to Schmidt Automotive Research data.

Thanks to the annual end of year CO2 compliance shot in the arm, seeing an armada of struggling manufacturers late to the CO2 compliance game push EV models, as well as the usual fiscal changes in key markets (Netherlands), BEV volumes received the reliable end of year boost. Consequently, almost every third new Nissan (30.3%) was a BEV in December, as well as every fourth (24.4%) Porsche. That was accompanied by the end of quarter volume boost from Tesla (Dec: 34,747 units), surpassing Ford's same month volumes (31,798), resulting in the W-European BEV market achieving a new monthly volume record (175,491: +6% y/y) in a total semiconductor constrained market (Dec: 860,948; -21.2% y/y).

While the diesel new passenger car market share peaked at 55.5% in 2011, according to Schmidt Automotive Research data, diesels downward trajectory was amplified in 2015 by dieselgate that sent shudders through European OEM headquarters' that were betting on oil burners to guarantee a profitable route to new CO2 compliance targets, fast approaching on the horizon. However, paradoxically the work of those Wolfsburg engineers might have been the aphrodisiac the electric car market was looking for, at more or less the same time when Tesla began polishing the blunt image of EVs.

With almost irreparable OEM images, marketing departments and strategists scrambled to find a fix. The protagonist at the centre of the scandal, Volkswagen, had the first meeting to discuss the MEB/ID. Series vehicles within 30 days of VW AG's ex-CEO Winterkorn's face being strewn across the globe's financial newspapers. Following a four-year development cycle, the MEB platform got from the drawing board to the start of production by autumn 2019.

Looking to the present day, it was VW Group that dominated the West European BEV passenger car market's record year last year. Out of the 1.190,741 new BEVs entering the 18 market region (+63.6% y/y), 297,155 came from VW Group stables.

While the total passenger car market fell to its lowest annual level in almost 40 years (10.6M), impacted by the semiconductor shortage, BEVs profited, accounting for 11.2% of full-year deliveries (2020: 6.7%). OEMs with limited chips were keen to deliver only their most profitable models, balancing these with BEVs in order to remain CO2 compliant. VW Group's premium brands Bentley and Porsche both produced record global volumes last year, demonstrating where the funnel of chips was going.

However, with just two models, it was Tesla that took the number one BEV brand crown. The 166,500 deliveries from the 10-year old Elon Musk-headed company surpassed VW brand's BEV volumes by 4,100 units.

With the European EV passage now open, it is unlikely to freeze over again and similar to the NSR passage, open for four months of the year, the same may be the case for BEVs surpassing diesels, for now – given those end of quarter Tesla bumps. A total thawing where BEVs surpass all ICE volumes (>50% share) isn't expected until the end of the decade though (see forecast on page 13).

The European Electric Study (19 pages) is published on a monthly basis and covers the entire West European region in a detailed data-driven manner.


May also interest you: November 2021 Study Preview: November European Electric Car Market Study Preview – Chip shortage boosts BEV mix to >10% this year... click here for the story


*Western Europe 18 Markets: EU Member States prior to the 2004 enlargement plus EFTA markets Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, plus UK


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