W.European 2018 electric car sales just below 0.2 million last year

2019 set to be final dress rehearsal - electric showtime begins at the strike of midnight on December 31st 2019



2018 West European pure electric BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) car sales saw levels reach 195,000 units last year according to my own research - carried out each month since 2013. The rise of 45 per cent over the same period last year translated into a 1.4 per cent mix of total sales in the region (just under half the mix as seen in China last year) up 0.5 percentage points over the previous year.

The market recorded its highest quarter on record during Q4 2018, seeing quarterly sales not just breach the 50,000 mark for the first time but rise above 60,000 quarterly sales A final dramatic quarter - earlier forecast - sales boost in the Netherlands was a deciding factor thanks to a statistical anomaly due to a tax rise for the value of BEV vehicles over €50,000, from January 1 2019, boosting demand for premium electric vehicles. This led to the Netherlands accounting for almost every forth BEV sold in the region in December. Jaguar's I-Pace and both Tesla models currently available not only topped electric car sales in The Netherlands in December with 2,621 and 2,210 sales respectively, according to RAI data, accounting for 79.5 per cent of December BEV registrations, the I-Pace was the top selling model in The Netherlands outright in December. However this boost is likely to to have been a one-off - for now - and 2019 levels for these premium plug-ins are likely to return to close to zero in the opening months of the this year (2019). Norway the main pillar of the European passenger car market, retained its crown as Western Europe's top electric car market with 46,100 new annual registrations last year according to OFV data. However significantly the market which thanks to fiscal benefits is the only European market to see electric cars reach price parity or often negative price parity with the equivalent ICE models - saw its share of the West European market remain below one quarter for the second consecutive year according to my own research. Just three years ago Norway accounted for closer to 30 per cent. Zoe push indicating a worrying underlying demand problem? According to my own research it appears Renault made a big push to meet a KPI it set itself of meeting a cumulative electric car sales volume of 200,000 models by the end of 2018. In order to meet this Renault registered a large proportion of its Zoe models in the closing months of the year with many appearing on Berlin's roads with Munich registration plates. This boost helped it draw level with Alliance partner's Nissan Leaf in becoming the joint best selling model in the region with over 37,000 sales each (full list available). If Renault did indeed push these Zoes by either registering the vehicles themselves or at a discount through a big fleet deal such as it slowly appears to be the case with ADAC, a high underlying demand for electric cars may not necessarily currently be in place as many reports suggest. If this is the case manufacturers that have planned in high production runs of pure electric vehicles from 2020 in order to meet European Union (also including Norway as announced in November) could be forced to sell their vehicles at high losses.

2019: dress rehearsal 2019 will likely see Norway retain its position as the leading market for electric car sales in terms of new volume for the last year. Due to Norway being an established market with close to one third annual electric cars sales mix of total sales the volumes are likely to surpass 50,000 annual units this year, helped by the introduction of the Tesla Model 3 due in this year's first quarter in the highest spec versions.


2020: showtime Other European markets will likely see small boosts from the introduction of the Model 3 also, although electric models from manufactures hoping to achieve strict CO2 targets on average of 95g/km (depending on the weight of their fleet) are likely to limit volumes of their electric models until 2020 when this target applies to 95 per cent of the fleet and 100 per cent by 2021. Manufacturers like Volkswagen which will up its production of electric cars from 2020 with the introduction of its first purpose-built electric model - the ID. - based on its all-electric MEB architecture have gone on record saying that they are likely to achieve these targets. From 2020 Volkswagen Group aim to bring 150,000 BEV vehicles to market consisting of 50,000 units of its current e-Golf (due to be phased out with ID. replacing it) and eUp current offering together with 100,000 units of the new MEB based models.

Premium PHEV bet - win-win for Premium manufacturers Premium car manufactures such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes are likely to take a PHEV approach in bringing their fleet average down. This has the advantage of, these can still be sold profitably, while hugely reducing the fleet average with minimal disruption to customers that don't necessarily want to jump into bed with the new fully electric models. PHEV models are currently being help back until 2020 when a host of updated models with extend pure EV mode ranges which will bring the CO2 emissions for huge vehicles such as the BMW X5 PHEV down to below 50g/km qualifying for super-credits while at the same time thanks to a heavy curb-weight will possibly even allow the CO2 target to rise slightly. I also believe manufactures will begin to reduce volumes towards the end of 2021 if they are happy they have done the minimum to meet their respective targets as the next wave of targets that will be enforced from 2025 and 2030 will be based upon whichever value they achieve in 2021. A number of Germany's manufactures have also hinted at this with all important pure BEV architecture being introduced first in 2022.

© 2020 by Matthias Schmidt | Berlin, Germany