Electric vehicle sales are revving up across Europe, and the numbers indicate a trajectory that might just take this market to the moon, metaphorically speaking of course. Now, new legislation from the European Commission is setting this market up for further success with mandated infrastructure and support for manufacturers.
According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), in 2019, fully battery-powered cars accounted for just 1.9% of cars registered in the EU. In 2021, the number increased to 9.1%, and jumped to 12.1% in 2022. That brings us to the first quarter of 2023, where battery-powered vehicles have accounted to 13.4% of new car sales across Europe.
A wider category is showing the same level of love for e-mobility: APVs – or alternatively powered vehicles – parks pure electric, plug-in and non-plug-in hybrids in together. This new and shiny category made up more than half of the EU car market during the last quarter of 2022, with over 1.3m registered in total. It was also the first time APVs surpassed purely hydrocarbon-powered cars.
The sector’s accelerating growth isn’t without speed bumps
First of all, the starting price of an EV puts them out of reach for many Europeans. Petrol-powered cars remain the more affordable and thus, practical, option. It’s estimated though, that manufacturers will be able to produce petrol-powered cars and EVs for the same price as early as 2025. This is owing to various factors, such as government subsidies, economies of scale linked to increased production, and lower global prices of lithium and all that other good stuff needed for battery production. There’s also some pretty stiff competition, particularly from Chinese producers, driving prices down.
Secondly, there’s the issue of charging infrastructure. According to ACEA, range anxiety – a fear that the car’s battery will run out mid-trip – is the number one barrier to EV adoption among potential EV drivers in Europe. Between 2016 and 2022, sales of EVs outstripped the number of charging points threefold. Range anxiety may very well be justified insufficient charging infrastructure, and until the issue is rectified, it’s likely uptake of EVs will lag.
So how will the EU pull the plug on petrol?
In March 2023, the European Commission approved the Fit for 55 package: a set of proposals to update EU legislation and put into place new initiatives that would help the EU reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
The new law sets targets for electric-recharging and hydrogen-refuelling, including a requirement that for each battery-powered car in an EU member state, a power output of a least 1.3 kilowatts must be provided by a publicly accessible charger. Additionally, every 60km along the trans-European road network, a fast recharging station with a total of at least 150kw capacity should be installed from 2025 onwards.
These changes will be key in decarbonisation – and the progress of the EU’s ambitious climate roadmap to continent-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. In fact, Fit for 55 might well make Europe the world’s climate-policy leader. The union’s member states are already responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s EV production, and imports millions of vehicles each year. If prices continue to trend downwards and infrastructure increases, mass adoption will likely become a reality, spurring on job creation and progress towards climate goals.
The European Commission’s policymaking is laying the foundations for further decarbonisation measures, and ensuring a sustainable future. It’s now up to member states to back the movement and deliver on the legislation without taking their foot off the pedal.