Latest Report Preview – PHEV booster rockets begin separation from BEV payload

Key points:

  • New BEV passenger car registration volumes begin pulling away from PHEVs

  • BEV volumes 100,000 greater over the last three months

  • 1-in-5 (19.2%) of all new West European new car registrations now plug-in

  • BEVs moved one percentage market penetration point ahead of PHEVs over the past 12-months (Nov 2020 - Oct 2021;BEVs: 10.3%, PHEV: 9.3%)

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While it has been almost four years since SpaceX launched an electric car into space, Western Europe's 18 region plug-in passenger car market is heading for the launch pad. Every fifth (19.2% mix) new vehicle entering the region's roads during the opening 10-months of this year could recharge at a wall box. However, are we witnessing those initial-thrust PHEV rockets – helping the market gain lift – about to separate as the BEV payload continues into orbit?

Stage one of the West European electric car launch sequence began in 2019, with BEV models accounting for 2.5% of the total new car market (every fortieth). While the script was to throttle-up from 2020, in line with more challenging phased-in EU CO2 fleet emissions targets, the pre-boost was thanks to the Tesla Model 3, launched in Europe in 2019, accounting for every fourth new BEV (27%/94,000 units) in the 354,000 market. Without this visionary model, BEV penetration would have been just 1.8%. Fast forward to 2020, and the total regional plug-in (BEV/PHEV) passenger car market more than doubled in volumes to 1.33 million (2020: 546,000) while the mix tripled to 12.4 per cent during pandemic scarred 2020, up from 3.8% in 2019.

PHEVs contributed over 600,000 units (+213% y/y) while BEVs achieved an annual growth rate of half that (+106% y/y) to 728,000 as PHEVs became a vital tool for premium OEMs to achieve CO2 compliance.

PHEV booster rockets reaching maximum propulsion? However, those plug-in hybrid booster rockets appear slowly to be reaching maximum propulsion and ever so gently could begin separating from the BEV mothership. Although true underlying market conditions are difficult to gauge currently due to the distorting semiconductor crisis, VW Group's order books indicate just over one-in five vehicles on the order-books (180,000 out of ~1 million) are BEV in the region, according to a recent VW Group presentation.

Looking at the most recent three months data (Aug-Oct), BEVs (327,500) are now powering away from PHEVs (226,000), outnumbering them by 100 thousand units and moving one percentage market penetration point ahead over the past 12-months (Nov 2020 - Oct 2021; BEVs: 10.3%, PHEV: 9.3%). Both plug-in variants are expected to record over 1 million units each this year (Oct YTD; BEV: 886,000, PHEV: 839,000), bringing the total plug-in market above 2 million (1-in-5 units in an 11M restricted supply market).

Germany threatens to all but kill the ICE a few years before the EU's effective phase-out date

Another potential major catalyst, among others (Tesla's imminent German production start

expected to begin in December according to an Automobilwoche report), Germany –

Western Europe's largest plug-in market accounting for almost every third plug-in registered

in the region this year (31%) – under its new traffic light coalition government, set to take office before Christmas, is threatening to all but kill the ICE a few years before the European Union's effective 2035 phase-out date (proposed 0g/km fleet average CO2 target).

Germany now wants to achieve this even earlier, although including a handful of synthetic efuel cars, which will be the only new ICE vehicles still permitted from the early part of the

next decade. A recently published report by Transport & Environment experts a 2.3 €/L price for e-fuels for consumers once taxes, levies and transport are included in 2030, effectively leaving the market to wealthy enthusiasts. In the stealthily 177-page coalition text published by all three parties (SPD, FDP and Greens), a target to get a minimum of 15 million pure electric (BEV) passenger cars onto German roads by 2030 is stated, bringing the BEV population mix to ~30% (currently 0.55M/ 1.1%). PHEVs, that witnessed their first year-on-year monthly fall (-4.5%) in Germany for 26 months in October are omitted from that 15 million target. In Germany, from August 2023 PHEVs need to have a minimum 80km EV-only range in order to qualify the so-called innovation bonus, which is being phased-out entirely from 2026. Perhaps more importantly, PHEVs will only be eligible for the reduced 0.5% monthly company car tax rate (key-driver) if the vehicle is driven half the time in EV mode.

BMW geofencing for PHEVs image
BMW e-drive geofencing for PHEVs

BMW Group is already attempting to condition drivers, offering electric PHEV usage points and geofencing 138 European cities where EV mode is engaged.

Who killed the ICE Car?

While that Tesla has been orbiting earth for almost 4 years now, it has been two decades since GM discontinued its EV1 electric car programme, resulting in cult "Who killed the Electric Car?" film. Twenty years on it may be time for the sequel, "Who killed the ICE Car?"

The European Electric Car Flash Report which is published on a monthly basis covers the entire West European region in a detailed data-driven manner.

May also interest you: Future outlook: Semiconductor crisis accelerates the EV transition... BEVs are now expected to soak up 10.2% (1.132M units) of the total market while with PHEVs added to the equation – a route mostly exploited by premium OEMs click here for the story