By all accounts, the EV revolution is getting off to a later start in Europe than it is in the US and Asia. Precise figures are hard to come by, but there’s no question that substantially fewer EVs and PHEVs changed hands in the Old Country in 2012 than in the US, despite Europe’s greater population – and despite the fact that driving habits in many European countries would seem to be ideal for electrification.
It’s strictly a temporary situation, according to the latest from Pike Research, which forecasts that by 2020, there will be more than 1.8 million battery electric vehicles and 1.2 million plug-in hybrids on Europe’s roads. Pike says that the variety of hybrid and plug-in models on offer in Europe, and the availability of charging infrastructure, is growing steadily, driving more sales. The most charged European countries in 2020 will be Germany, France, Norway, the UK, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The report includes analyses of business models, technology and standards issues, and government policies, as well as profiles of 23 key automakers and market forecasts for 21 European countries.
In at least a couple of countries, the signs of a coming boom are already evident. Norway is Europe’s EV capital – Nissan sold 1,000 LEAFs there within six months of the launch date, making it the company’s second-best-selling model in the country. Norwegian EV drivers enjoy various government incentives, including exemption from VAT and the country’s hefty new car tax, free parking, some free tolls, and the use of bus lanes in Oslo. Nissan estimated last May that the capital had 3,500 public charging points, many of them free.
The New York Times reported last week that plug-ins are slowly but surely catching on in the Netherlands, where at least 7,500 are already on the road. If EVs succeed anywhere, says the Times, it should be in this small green nation, where gas costs around $8.50 a gallon (electrons cost a fifth as much, on a per-mile basis). The Dutch are rapidly expanding the national grid of charging stations, and EV drivers get sizable tax breaks, as well as free street parking and charging in Amsterdam.
Furthermore, plug-ins aren’t only being bought as second cars. A 2012 Accenture survey of Dutch owners found that most were using their EVs as a primary vehicle. Drivers started off cautiously, but gradually overcame range anxiety as they figured out how far they could go on a charge, and learned the locations of charging points. “There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle,” said Accenture consultant and EV driver Maarten Noom. “It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.”