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Icebreaker – BEVs moved ahead of diesels in Western Europe in December


Key points:

  • West European new pure electric BEV passenger car registrations surpassed diesel (inc. hybrid) for the first time in December according to Schmidt Automotive Research data

  • 20.4% of all new passenger cars registered in December across Western Europe were BEV setting a new monthly record volume of 175,500 units (prev record Dec 2020: 165,600)

  • BEVs were likely helped by the semiconductor crisis seeing some prioritising of rationed semiconductors to off-set the other recipient; higher than average emitting, low volume, high-profit models

  • 11.2% of all new cars in the 18 market region were pure electric BEVs (2020: 6.7%)


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During the final month of 2021, Western Europe's pure electric BEV market penetration of new passenger car registrations marked a historic waypoint as more all-electric BEV models entered the 18 market region than vehicles powered by diesel fuel.

While BEVs (176,100) surpassed diesel volumes (161,000) in December 2021, for the first time, the once promised CO2 busting profitable diesel vehicles continue their slide, with Volkswagen's dieselgate scandal torpedoing the models that were once as famous for their rattle as their superior fuel economy.

Diesel passenger cars used to command just over every second new vehicle registered across the region prior to dieselgate (September 2015), peaking during full year 2011 at 55.5%.

During December 2021, the diesel penetration level remained below 20% at just 18.7% while just a handful of markets from Southern Europe, Germany, France, Austria and Belgium still show a fading interest.

While diesel 48V MHEVs have offered a lifeline to mainly German OEMs the death of the diesel is likely inevitable while Europe's appetite for BEVs – pushed by legislation, new models and both fiscal and purchase subsidies – is gathering pace, accounting for every ninth new car registered in 2021 (11.2% mix).

2021 BEV penetration was also arguably above the forecast at the start of the year due to the semiconductor shortage forcing OEMs to forego high volume, lower profit models for higher-emitting but more profitable models that had to be off-set by BEVs in order to reach CO2 compliance.

European CO2 fleet average target increased slightly over the previous year due to the so-called phase-in falling away, as well as the likely limited use of the reduced value of super credits available.


2022 is almost certainly likely to see a further growth in BEV volumes with the monthly European Electric Car Study published by Schmidt Automotive Research each month predicting a reduced pace in increase in 2022 to 1.54M (+29% y/y) or 350,000 more units, mainly attributed to the opening of Tesla’s German production facility and a total market returning in the second half requiring more BEVs to meet CO2 targets that see the final year of certain incentive mechanisms.

The Tesla Model Y, that is set to be manufactured just outside Berlin this year, slots into the SUV/Crossover sector that accounted for over 40% of all new BEVs registered in Western Europe last year.

The BEV mix in 2022 is only expected to rise slightly to 12.6% as the market returns and more affordable – and less profitable – lower emitting ICE vehicle volumes return in the second half of the year in a total passenger car market that is expected to reach 12.2 million units (2021: 10.6M or the lowest level since 1984 - 10.2M).

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: Full 2021 year preview: The West European 2021 electric car market data... West European new BEV passenger car registrations reached 1.2M units (1,190,000) in 2021 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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