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Electric cars reach peak EU market share in 2022

February 2, 2023

Battery electric vehicles have climbed to a record share of new car sales in the EU, albeit still a modest 12.1%. In the last quarter, alternatively powered vehicles outsold petrol and diesel for the first time.

A Tesla Model 3 parked at a charging station with a fast-charging cable plugged in.
Tesla is the biggest selling marque in Europe, thanks in no small part to the Model 3 (pictured) and the Model YImage: Torsten Sukrow/SULUPRESS.DE/picture alliance

The number of battery electric vehicles sold in the EU continues to grow rapidly, new auto industry figures released on Wednesday show. 

Fully battery electric vehicles accounted for 12.1% of the 9.1 million units sold in EU markets in 2022, according to figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA).

That compares to a share of 9.1% in 2021 and of just 1.9% as recently as 2019. 

"The auto industry is moving fast," ACEA president and Renault chief executive Luca de Meo said on Wednesday.

Last year's increase was fueled in particular by an above-average surge in purchasing figures in Germany, where 198,263 units were sold. Sales accelerated in Germany towards the end of the year as government subsidies on purchases were scheduled to expire by 2023. 

Hybrid electric vehicles accounted for 22.6% of sales, and the more modern and greener plug-in hybrids for 9.4%. 

The plug-in hybrid increase was again well above average in the comparatively wealthy German market. 

Europe's leader in terms of purchasing new electric vehicles is not actually an EU member and wasn't part of Wednesday's figures. But in oil-producing Norway, also one of Europe's wealthiest countries in per capita terms, electric vehicles accounted for around four in every five cars sold in 2022

Emission-free electric commercial vehicles

Petroleum and diesel's dominance fading

The share of petrol and diesel-powered cars sold in the EU, which the bloc currently plans to phase out by 2035, continued to fall but still accounted for just over half of new cars in 2022.

Petrol cars accounted for 36.4% of cars sold, the largest category by far, and the dip in diesel sales continued with its share hitting 16.4%. 

In the fourth quarter of 2022, for the first time ever, the collective sales of alternatively-powered vehicles eclipsed petrol and diesel's combined tally. 

Meanwhile, natural gas-powered cars remained a negligible and shrinking part of the market, dropping to 0.2% amid falling popularity in the one European market where they had gained some traction, Italy. 

ACEA calls for more charging infrastructure plans

Hurdles still remain when buying electric vehicles, most notably the price tag and the charging question.

Electric and hybrid models still tend to cost considerably more than comparable ones with an internal combustion engine, even taking government incentives into account. 

And while most cars have sufficient range for almost all journeys, charging times and charging station availability can still be a concern. 

De Meo called on European governments to keep up with promises to install charging stations

"Despite many announcements and recent promises, infrastructure development is lagging behind the industry efforts," he said. 

De Meo acknowledged that at present electric cars are being purchased mainly by "wealthy" households, but he said that should change quickly as they become more commonplace and costs are trimmed. 

But the Renault CEO was wary about Tesla's sharp drop in prices announced at the beginning of 2023, saying that a price war could be counterproductive. "We need to invest," he said. 

msh/jsi (AFP, dpa)