The rapid rise of electric vehicles in Europe

The rapid rise of electric vehicles in Europe

Electric vehicle adoption in Europe has skyrocketed in recent years, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) now comprising 15% of new car sales across the continent in the first three quarters of 2023. Just five years ago, that figure stood at a mere 1%.

However, there remain drastic differences between countries. While forward-thinking nations like Sweden, Finland and Denmark have breezed past the 30% threshold for EV market penetration, laggards like Italy and Spain have stalled near 5%. Central and Eastern European countries also trail behind generally.

The leading adopters in northern Europe have benefited from generous government incentives and proactive policies designed to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles. Manufacturers like Volvo and Ford have also targeted earlier timelines to go fully electric in these markets, committing to sell only zero-emissions cars in Europe by 2030.

Among the five largest European car markets, accounting for nearly 70% of new registrations, Germany pulls ahead of the pack with EVs at 18% of sales.

The UK and France follow closely, on par with the wider European average of 15%. Meanwhile, EV uptake in Spain and Italy continues to disappoint. Lack of charging infrastructure and purchase incentives are likely factors, although Portugal boasts a 17% EV share despite similar obstacles. Home solar charging presents a major opportunity in sunnier southern countries.

Many consumers still opt for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as a transitionary option. But with PHEV subsidies removed in Germany, share plunged from 14% to 6% this year alone. Falling PHEV demand in markets like Netherlands also shows more rapid electrification is viable without hybrids acting as a midway technology.

Tougher 2025 emissions standards will force most automakers to adjust their strategies. PHEV market share likely hit its peak across Europe last year and should cede more ground to pure battery electrics going forward. The rapid growth makes clear these fully electric models are no longer a niche but rather the new normal for car buyers in many European nations. Countries currently lagging have little time to catch up before sales of legacy vehicles evaporate.

Facts and figures: ING.

Jakk is the founder and chief editor of Top Charger. He drives a Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro Performance, and despite having a lead right foot, he consistently gets over 200-miles of range.