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The West European 2021 electric car market data


Key points:

  • West European new BEV passenger car registrations reached 1.2M units (1,190,000) in 2021 according to provisional Schmidt Automotive Research data.

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

  • In December every fifth new car (20%) registered in Western Europe was a zero-emission BEV

  • The final quarter (Oct-Dec) of 2021 saw a record over 400,000 BEV units (prev. record: Q4 2020 320,000) enter the region's roads or 17% of Q4’s total new passenger car market

  • The Netherlands was the only market that witnessed volumes fall (-12.5% y/y) over previous year levels. This was likely linked to company car drivers already in BEV lease cycles (as reported in the November report), taking advantage of lower tax rates in previous years. Private customers also played a role, likely holding back their electric car purchases back until January 2022 when a new quota of government private purchase subsidies (€3,350) entered into force.

  • Southern European markets (Italy; 4.6% BEV mix , Spain; 2.8% mix, Greece; 2.2%) continue to fall behind their Northern neighbours.

  • With PHEVs (1.02M) added to the equation, plug-ins accounted for every fifth (21%) new passenger cars in 2021 (2.21M) or a 66% volume increase over full year 2020.


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Before the champagne bottles are popped in celebration of a record year, with more than every tenth new passenger car arriving on West European* roads being a pure electric vehicle in 2021 – 2020 was almost half that rate at 6.4%, which appeared impressive at the time, given the CO2 boost in December last year – it is worth adding some perspective, given the BEV booster year we just witnessed, was in a total passenger car market that recorded its worst year for almost 40 years.

In a normal average 14.2 million passenger car market year that same volume of BEVs would have equated to just 8.4 per cent mix of the market, giving perhaps some indication to how the market would have looked in a 'normal' non-pandemic year, where the word 'semiconductor' would have remained in the lexicon of just a handful of experts. However the 11.2 per cent BEV mix in 2021 will claim most headlines. (Covered in the November edition of the study).

The bitter-pill and paradox is the realisation that plug-ins were likely being favoured by manufacturers with limited semiconductors in order to off-set their most profitable and consequently highest polluting vehicles in a form of carbon off-setting in order to meet European and UK CO2 fleet average legislation in a form of damage limitation mode which worked out surprisingly well for their bottom lines. When the IEA publishes its dataset on the European car market later this year we are likely to see this reflected in a jump in the mass average weight of new vehicles in 2021 rocketing skywards.


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: October Study preview: PHEV booster rockets begin separation from BEV payload... New BEV passenger car registration volumes begin pulling away from PHEVs 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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