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Northern Lights – Nordics on track to wave bye to ICEs first?


Key points:

  • T-TimeTesla, returned to being the number one OEM in terms of new BEV volumes registered across the 18 market region over a 3-month period. The last time Tesla topped the list was during Q4 2019 before new CO2 legislation forced traditional OEMs to turn greener.

  • Over 3 million BEVs – Western Europe has now witnessed over 3 million new BEVs enter its roads since the battery powered models first started appearing in relative scale one decade ago.

  • Music before the lights go out – With Norway set to see the light switch go out at car showrooms that sell internal combustion engine cars in just over 30 months, during the opening quarter of 2022, 9-in-10 new models were already capable of recharging at a wallbox rather than a traditional fuel forecourt .

  • BMW – Awaking from a slumber – Not just Mercedes has seen its BEV product offering double over the last year, but BMW Group too are again starting to awaken slowly, having pioneered the i3 a decade ago. West European Q1 quarterly BEV volumes (25,400) more than doubled (+124.5%) over the same period last year (11,300) in a total BEV market that rose at half that rate (59.4%).

  • And finally... Quote of the month... Are GM set to make a return to Europe? – During the Q1 results call, CEO, Mary Barra said... "(Europe) is a tremendous growth opportunity for our EV portfolio as we go forward”.


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Over 100 different pure electric (BEV) models have entered Europe's most Northern market over the past decade, contributing to nearly every fifth car on Norway's roads today (15.9% BEV parc January 1, 2022) motoring along silently. The half millionth model will enter the 2.9m car market during this year's second quarter. Meanwhile the zero emission models which can be found on the country's roads range from the absurd: the garishly coloured and original gull-wing doored EV, Mercedes SLS EV supercar.

The marginally more sensible: the baby-faced and Lotus-based Tesla Roadster. While the less fruity but arguably just as exotic homegrown lead-acid battery-driven Th!nk City are among these. Visually, the roads of this wealthy oil-rich market, stretching from Oslo to Bergen, have become as diverse looking as the multi-coloured aurora borealis lights that illuminate its winter skies. While acoustically, city centres remind one of that moment when noise-cancelling headphones are switched on during plane journeys.

While Norway's industry leading plug-in (PHEV/BEV) mix of 89.8 per cent during this year's first quarter – with just over 30 months to go until the lights are turned out at ICE showrooms – stands out, the other four northern fringe markets all saw their combined BEV/PHEV mixes top all other West European markets. Iceland (62.7%) and Sweden (53.5%) both saw the majority of their new car volumes capable of charging externally, while Finland (34.4%) and Denmark (33.6%) both followed, seeing at least one-third of their new volumes being either a BEV or PHEV model.

The next best market was The Netherlands with 28.6% mix.

Although the collective population of all five northern lying markets (27 mn) accounts for just one-third of the population of Germany (83 mn), it helps underline why they accounted for just 16.1% (87,600 new plug-ins) of the region's new plug-in registrations, despite the high individual mixes. Germany alone accounted for 27.7% (151,400 units).

However, while total volumes are never going to compete with more central major

markets, the high concentration of BEVs in a relatively compact geographical region

makes it appealing to new market entrants, especially from China.

FAW, Nio, XPeng and BYD are all making their first European baby steps here, offering quick feedback in a micro and manageable market environment. During the opening quarter, Chinese OEMs accounted for every ninth new BEV in Norway, or double the regional average (4.4%).

Five per cent of all the vehicles on these North European roads (parc) up to January 1,

2022 were BEV models already, while across the entire West European region, just 1.2%

of all cars were BEVs.

This falls below 1% if the five Nordics are deducted. In an almost perfect storm scenario, all five nordic markets that benefit from high levels of renewable energy and economic living standards are witnessing this silent revolution. With well-heeled governments on hand to fund high purchase incentives or, more common in fact, lower taxes than their ICE equivalents –helping price parity – this form of market stimulation can only partially be replicated in markets lying further south.

West European Q1 2022 plug-in volumes and mix
West European Q1 2022 plug-in volumes and mix

Having just returned from a trip to Denmark and Sweden, the tangible signs of a revolution on the roads are certainly well underway.

Not only in green-thinking metropolitan bubbles can plug-ins be seen recharging between hip coffee shops, but also in rustic fishing villages, parked next to upturned barnacle-lined boats.

Having visited Oslo in 2015 when new car BEV penetration was running at just below 20% mix, it appeared monumental, but being in Sweden seven years later and Q1 2022 BEV penetration running at 28.3%, or 53.5% if PHEVs are included, it gave an even starker impression that a tipping point has arrived.

With a Malus creating headwinds for ICEs and a Bonus creating tailwinds for BEVs, bonding price parity with combustion engine equivalents, it will likely be geopolitical headwinds and lack of supply that will brake even greater further adoption for now.

Once the winds settle, however, expect Europe's Northern Lights to continue to shine brightest... for the time being.


May also interest you: European Electric Car Market Full Year 2021: Executive Summary – Full Year 2021 European Electric Car Study 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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