Electric Vehicles in Europe

While electric passenger vehicle sales have increased rapidly over past years, they represented just 2.5% market share of cars sold in the EU in 2018. More than two million electric vehicles were sold in the EU in 2018. 126,885 EV cars were registered in the first quarter of 2019 (Transport and Environment, 2019).

Leading countries in EV sales accounted for 91% (above 1.9% market share) of registered EVs sold in 2017, these include : Norway, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Follower countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain accounted for only 8% (0.5% market share) of EU sold electric vehicles in the same year. Slow starter countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia accounted for a mere 2% of registered electric vehicles sold in 2017 (0.3%market share) (Transport and Environment, 2019).

Separately, several countries have banned petrol and diesel cars to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, Germany was the first country to implement an official ban on petrol and diesel cars, which is due to come into force by 2030. The ban allows German citizens to only buy electric or hydrogen-fuelled cars from 2030. This is highly significant in a global context as Germany has the fourth largest car manufacturing industry in the world. Norway have also followed Germany's lead. A complete ban on petrol-powered cars will be enacted in the country by 2025. Additionally, the ban will only allow the sale of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars from this date. France has also announced they will be ceasing sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 to meet their targets under the Paris Climate Accord and to reduce air pollution. France aims to have a fleet of 2.4 million rechargeable electric and hybrid vehicles by 2023. The UK has also committed to preventing new diesel and petrol vehicle sales from 2040. The decision was made because of increasing air pollution concerns and the health implications associated with this. In the recent Climate Action Plan this year (2019), Ireland has now set an action, in following suit and banning the sale on petrol and diesel cars passed 2030.

Norway's Electric Vehicles

Outside of the EU, Norway is a clear leader in terms of electric vehicle sales, where 31.2% of all new cars sold in 2018 were electric. Over 361,307 new electric vehicles were sold . Nearly one third of all new cars sold in the country in 2018 were a plug-in model – either fully electric or a hybrid. Over 58% of all car sales were electric vehicles in the month of March 2018.

Norway’s growth in electric cars has been facilitated by a wide range of government incentives, as a means of achieving its climate change targets. Electric vehicle owners do not pay import tax and VAT on plug-in cars. Similarly, running costs are lower because electricity is cheaper than petrol and diesel, while road tax has also been reduced for electric vehicles. In Norway, electric car owners do not pay road tolls, ferry fees and city emissions taxes that conventional vehicle owners do. Moreover, they can park for free and can bypass traffic by driving in designated bus lanes.

Ireland's Electric Vehicles

There are approximately 4825 electric vehicles in Ireland to date. Government targets are that electric vehicles will make up 10% of all vehicles nationally by 2020 however – equating to approximately 250,000 electric vehicles (TII, 2011; SEAI, 2016). Despite ongoing technological developments, increasing battery range and falling costs, increased take-up among Irish drivers has been relatively slow. In an attempt to overcome low ownership of electric vehicles, the Irish government announced a range of measures in 2017. These include:

  • the continuation of the Electric Vehicle purchase Grant (of up to €5,000). Further details can be found here;
  • the continuation of Vehicle Registration Tax relief (of up to €5,000 for battery electric vehicles and up to €2,500 for hybrid electric vehicles). Further details can be found here;
  • a new benefit in kind rate of 0% for battery electric vehicles for a minimum of three years. This is in place to encourage greater uptake of electric vehicles by companies for company cars for its employees;
  • a new grant to support the installation of home charger points for buyers of new and second-hand EVs (up to €600);
  • a new grant to support the use of EVs as taxis, hackneys and limousines;
  • funding to support the operation and development of the public charging network with a specific emphasis on increasing the number of rapid chargers;
  • funding to support a reduction in tolls for EVs.
A Public Engagement Programme is also planned, which will include:
  • a national awareness campaign;
  • a driver experience roadshow which will give people the opportunity to drive an EV and experience the benefits for themselves;
  • public sector and commercial fleet trials; and
  • supports for electric vehicle use in car sharing trials.

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