By Giles Kirkland (Guest Writer)
2020 has started, and it is a great time to analyse how the automotive industry changed during the last decade, especially 2019. Most of the technological and market trends of the past few years have evolved as expected. The transition to electric vehicles is now clearly under way, which of course guarantees that technology will keep progressing as EVs are becoming economically viable.
New vehicle registrations in the EU dropped by 3.9% in 2019, but still represent about 15 million cars. By comparison, worldwide growth slowed down from 2% to 1.4%.
Before we look at electric and hybrid vehicles, the drop in registration for new diesel vehicles that started two years ago is confirmed for all EU countries except Germany. Legislation on air pollution and in particular taxes triggered this trend about 5 years ago. In the Netherlands and Sweden for example, new diesel registrations are down by 40%.
At world level, Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford hold 9%, 7.6% and 6.1% respectively, and the top 10 manufacturers represent half of the world market. Five of them are from Asia (of which three from Japan), three from Europe (Germany) and two from the United States. In the UK, it is actually surprising then that Toyota does not have a single car in the top 10 of sales in 2019 (VW and Ford have five between them), leaving Nissan and Kia to represent oriental brands.
Apart from Tesla, whose products are exclusively electric, surprisingly BMW and Volvo are
the manufacturers with the highest percentage of revenue from EV. Notably in 2019 the US manufacturer has finalized plans for their Giga factory in Germany but it should be noted that Toyota’s hybrid models remain the humble but clear winners on the EV and hybrid market (275,000 units in the US), where Tesla only sold about 200,000.
EV charging stations in Europe
The general public seems to become more and more receptive to electric cars, and the growing market share of EVs also boosts the availability of charging stations. In Europe, there are now around 144,000 of them. They remain very unequally distributed, though.
While Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and France are well equipped (below 1 for 3,000 inhabitants), the United Kingdom is still lagging behind (1 for 5,600). In fact the Netherlands account for 26% of all charging stations in the EU. Some countries like Italy and Poland remain exceptionally underequipped, which may slow down the sales of EV in the short and medium term.
Tesla may be the most prestigious EV brand, but as its S- or X- models are above 60,000 GBP ($75,000 and $80,000 respectively), Model 3 remains the most popular in the US where more than 300,000 units were sold. At 27,000 GBP, it was first made available in the UK in 2019, and proved the third most popular car in the UK in August. So while EV sales in the UK are still only 1.1%, they doubled since last year, from 9,000 to 18,000 units.
Other entry models below 25,000 GBP include the Nissan Leaf, VW e-Golf or Renault Zoe.
Incentives to buy EV
Overall in Europe (EU, Norway and the British Isles), as well as the US, EV sales have been
boosted and driven by tax exemptions (registration tax), tax credit, or taxes on petrol. There are also more creative incentives to boost electric car sales. For example in the Netherlands, EVs have access to dedicated parking spaces, special lanes in Toronto, while in the UK they are exempt from London’s Congestion Charge.
European Imports and Exports
As far as foreign trade is concerned, the largest EU exporter of electric and hybrid electric
cars outside of the EU is Germany (64%). However, since Norway is the main importer, the cars don’t travel that far. At the same time Germany accounts for a quarter of EU electric car imports.
The trend may change, but trade (both imports and exports) in electric and hybrid electric
cars was dominated by hybrid petrol cars. They represented two thirds of this segment vs
one third for EVs.
Some of the important trends in automotive sustainability that we’ve been observing in the past years strengthened in 2019. This helps manufacturers and consumers place significant trust in the future of electric vehicles, and some markets like Norway help see what the automotive sector will look like in five or ten years from now. Buying an electric car today no longer means being a pioneer, rather an early adopter. Hopefully, the transition to EVs in the next 15-20 years will help curb smog and allow alternative energy production to take off too.