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Europe Plug-in Vehicle Sales for Q4 and 2017 Full Year

by Roland Irle, EV-volumes.com

Plug-in vehicle sales in Europe were 307 400 units in 2017, 39 % higher than for 2016. These include all Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in Hybrids (PHEV) in Europe, in the passenger cars and light commercial vehicles categories. The Plug-in share of the European light vehicle market reached 1,74 % for the year, the share was over 2 % during the last 4 months and reached 2,55 % in December.

The top-5 plug-in models in Europe were Renault Zoe EV, BMW i3 EV/EREV, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Nissan Leaf EV and Tesla Model S. Pure EVs (BEV) stood for 51 % of the volume, PHEVs for the rest. A mere 174 units of Fuel Cell Vehicles were delivered, 40 units more than 2016.

The German market is the clear highlight of 2017, with 108 % increase over 2016, making it now the second largest market for plug-ins in Europe, after Norway. The plug-in share in Germany reached 2,3 % in December and was 1,6 % for the year. Another highlight was Norway, where plug-in shares are the worlds highest, with 32,5 % in 2017, BEV and PHEV combined. In December Norway reached 42 % and, counting only passenger cars, 50 % of December sales were electrically chargeable vehicles. Compelling savings on vehicle taxes, toll exemptions and a well developed charging infrastructure have paved the way for the mass adoption of plug-ins. For 2025, the plan is to ban sales of fossil fuel vehicles altogether, in Norway.

Almost all European countries posted strong growth rates for 2017, many of them in triple digits. For 2018 we expect around 430 000 plug-ins to be delivered in Europe, 41 % more than in 2017. This translates to 2,4 % share in a total European light vehicle market, expected to reach 18 million sales (w/o Russia and Turkey).

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Germany doubles plug-in sales

If the preliminary sales results of January are any indication, Germany is on the way to become the largest plug-in vehicle market in Europe and the 5th largest globally. Purchase incentives were introduced as late as 2016, but reaction was hesitant, by then. A late starter in EV adoption, Germany now makes it up with triple speed. The German car industry appears as committed as creative, legislators are getting all tougher on Diesels and public awareness and interest made several steps forward.

Nearly all European markets showed strong increases during 2017. Netherlands' buyers still struggled with the incentive shift from plug-in hybrids to pure-electric vehicles. For 2018 we expect return to growth, albeit from a level far below the 2015 boom, when the Netherlands were the largest plug-in market in Europe.

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Growth is back to trend

The European sales history shows a consistent trend towards higher plug-in sales for the last 7 years. The picture contains an anomaly in 2015 and 2016 when a 2-step reduction in tax incentives for PHEV in the Netherlands causes a run on these vehicles at the end of 2015. This was followed by a drastic decline in PHEV sales in 2016, another spike in Q4 and a further slump in 2017. Netherland's plug-in sales contracted from 43 300 units in 2015 to 9 700 within 2 years. Still, European plug-in sales increased by 39 % last year, 1/3rd can be attributed to growth in Germany.

For 2018, our outlook is another 41 % increase to ca 430 000 units. This assumes that incentives remain on current levels and that supply meets volume demand. We are currently noting tight inventories and long waiting lists on certain BEV models, like Renault Zoe, VW e-Golf, the new Nissan Leaf and the coming Hyundai Kona. We don't account for significant Tesla Model-3 sales in Europe before 2019.

European, Japanese and Korean makes plan to launch 5 new BEVs and 16 new PHEVs during 2018. Among them the new Nissan Leaf, the Jaguar i-Pace, the Audi E-Tron Quattro and further 7 new PHEV variants by the Volkswagen Group. It all means more choice and better value for broader adoption.

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