EV and PHEV sales in Europe have set another record in 2018 with a 22% increase to nearly 345.000 sales of plug-in vehicles, of which close to 190.000 full electric cars and almost 155.000 plug-in hybrid cars. Sales of the former surged 44% while PHEV sales were virtually stable at +3,3%. 2018 therefore marks the first year that battery electric cars outsold PHEVs. Plug-in vehicles accounted for 2,2% of the European car market, up from 1,8% in 2017 and 1,4% in 2016. The rate of growth for EVs in Europe still lags that of worldwide EV sales, which grew by 73% in 2018.
The most popular market for EVs in Europe is the Norway at 46.057 sales (+39%), followed by Germany at 34.543 sales (+40%), France at 30.939 sales (+24%), Netherlands at 24.284 sales (+202%) and the UK at 14.504 sales (+7%). In terms of take rate, Norway leads in terms of EV acceptance with an out-of-this-world 31% of sales, followed by Netherlands at 5,4% and Sweden at 2%.
The Nissan Leaf surges ahead thanks to the second generation, setting a new annual sales record for any electric car in Europe, at almost 39.000 sales. The previous best was just over 30.000 set by the Renault Zoe in 2017. The Zoe also improves on that figure and sells over 37.000 copies in 2018, falling just shy of maintaining its title of best selling EV in Europe. In a distant third place we find the Volkswagen e-Golf, up 66% to over 21.000 sales, which is 4,7% of total European sales for the Golf, up 2 percentage points on 2017. Like the other two podium finishers, the e-Golf also benefited from improved technology. The BMW i3 (without range extender) outsells the Tesla Model S and Model X. The latter two are the only ones in the top-10 to improve by single digits, with the rest outgrowing the American sedan and SUV. With a combined capacity of 100.000 units per year worldwide, sales of these two models are capped until Tesla starts production in its new gigafactories in Europe and China. That makes six EVs that sell over 10.000 sales in Europe, a similar number as the year before.
At Hyundai, the Ioniq EV is the second most popular version of the sedan, accounting for 29% of the nameplate’s total, slightly up on last year. In the year that Smart announced it would become an EV-only brand of citycars, its share of electric versions of the Fortwo jumped from 7,9% in 2017 to 14%. That still means the brand is walking away from 86% of its current sales of the model, a risky move and one that has yet to prove successful in the US, where the brand stopped selling gasoline powered Fortwo’s last year and now sells fewer than 100 units per month there. With a new generation Kia Soul planned to arrive in 2019, sales of the current version obviously were down, but that didn’t include sales of the Soule EV, which improved once again. As a result, more than half of all Souls sold in Europe in 2018 were electric, one of the highest take rates of any plug-in vehicle that’s also available with internal combustion engines. We welcome the Jaguar I-Pace to the ranking with over 6.000 sales in the first few months after its launch, including 3.490 in The Netherland, of which 2.651 in December, before a new taxation kicked in, reducing the tax benefits on electric cars above €50.000,- . The next new entrant is the Hyundai Kona EV, which started sales in August and found just over 3.500 buyers, which is just over 10% of all Kona’s sold since August and more than the Opel Ampera-e sold for the full year. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to find a reliable source for sales figures of the Volkswagen e-Up! for 2018, so we’ll have to skip that model from the ranking for now.
Surprisingly, the Mitsubishi-PSA triplets that have been around since late 2010 without any major updates in range or technology and which therefore greatly outdated in today’s market, managed to improve their combined sales figures by 4%. Being the cheapest EV available must help, but their range is way behind the standards set by the new Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona EV and Tesla Model 3. Hyundai has been in a changeover year for their fuel cell vehicle range, with the Nexo replacing the ix35 FCEV which lead to a drop in overall hydrogen-powered deliveries for the brand.
With the I-Pace and Kona EV as the only significant new players in the EV segment, growth mostly came from improved battery capacity among existing players. In 2019, we expect a much greater number of entrants, which should help accelerate the growth of EV sales in Europe. Sales of EVs are expected to jump almost 60% to 300.000 in 2019 and another 50% in 2020 to 450.000. In alphabetical order, the most important new launches in 2019 are: Audi e-Tron, Honda Urban EV, Kia Niro EV, Mercedes EQC, Mini e, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model 3 and Volvo XC40 EV. PSA will be a latecomer to the party, with sales of the electric versions of the Peugeot 208, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and DS3 Crossback not arriving until 2020. Besides these projected newcomers, we also expect the Kona EV to move up the ranking, as well as the updated version of the Ioniq EV, thanks to a bigger battery pack, which – as we’ve seen above – significantly improves a model’s sales potential.
PHEV sales were pretty much stable in 2018 after a 31% gain in 2017 and a 17% gain in 2016. And while last year I was quick to point out that plug-in hybrids would be on the way out now that full EVs have improved their range, eliminating the most important selling point for PHEVs: range anxiety. Especially when considering the extra cost (and weight) involved in equipping a vehicle with two powertrains simultaneously. I substantiated this statement by pointing out how the ratio of Range Extender versions of the BMW i3 has changed since the EV version was equipped with a larger battery pack, as well as by pointing out how the PHEV version is often the slowest selling version in case a model has several options, for example the Hyundai Ioniq, where the plug-in hybrid takes just 17,4% of total sales, compared to 30,8% for the EV and the remaining 51,8% of buyers have opted for the hybrid version. So it would be easy to tap myself on the chest and point to the meagre 3% increase in 2018. However, then we’d be missing the big picture, as it seems like PHEVs are due for a comeback in the short term. You see, it’s all about the regulations.
The new WLTP standards for calculating fuel consumption and emissions that kicked in in 2018 have greatly affected sales of some top selling plug-in hybrid models, most notably those of Volkswagen Group, which stopped production of the Golf and Passat GTE and saw its most popular Porsche Panamera and Cayenne versions scrapped as well. These models will return in 2019 with larger batteries, which means a longer electric-only range and thus lower average emissions. The way these new standards have been set up, reduced the theoretic fuel efficiency and bumped them to above 50 g/km of CO2, the threshold used by many governments to qualify for subsidies or even to be allowed in some city centers. It’s also the threshold used by the EU in its supercredit system that will be implemented in 2020, which gives automakers extra credits for every car sold that emits less than 50 g/km and fines them for an average above a set limit that will be lower every year. As a result, PHEV sales are expected to surge just over 60% to 250.000 in 2019 and then more than double in 2020 to 550.000 units.
The most popular market for PHEVs in Europe is the UK at 44.703 sales (+32%), followed by Germany at 30.983 sales (+10%), Norway at 25.386 sales (-9%), Sweden at 21.487 sales (+34%) and France at 13.287 sales (+24%). In terms of take rate, Scandinavia leads in terms of PHEV acceptance: Norway is first with 17% of sales, followed by Sweden at 6,1% and Finland at 4,2%.
Mitsubishi was one of the first manufacturers to increse the battery capacity of its plug-in hybrid model and has succeeded in lowering the WLTP measured average emissions to below 50 g/km. As a result, the Outlander held on to its title of best selling plug-in hybrid in Europe with sales up nearly 25% to almost 24.000, which is more than 60% of all Outlanders sold in Europe, by far the highest take rate among PHEVs. While the best selling plug-in hybrid nameplate is from Mitsubishi, BMW is the best selling Plug-in hybrid brand with over 33.000 sales of its 3 best selling models alone. This excludes sale of the X5 PHEV, 7-series PHEV and i8 sports car.
Volvo takes 2nd place in the models ranking with the new XC60 T8 Twin Engine, which narrowly edges out the BMW 530e and the BMW 225xe Active Tourer. All three have a take rate of between 12% and 20%, which are all up from last year. The Volkswagen Passat GTE is down into 5th place with a loss of 16,4% as the version was taken out of production in the second half of the year due to the WLTP standards. An updated version with a longer EV range is expected in 2019, and the same goes for the Volkswagen Golf GTE, which is down 2,8%. Both the Passat and the Golf managed to keep the take rate for the plug-in version stable on 2017 as overall sales of the models also declined. The Mini Countryman PHEV is the sixth and last plug-in hybrid to score over 10.000 sales in 2018, with the Kia Niro PHEV just below that threshold. For the Niro, the take rate of 22,5% is the second highest in the class, after the Outlander. The BMW 330e is hte biggest loser among PHEVs with a loss of more than one quarter of its sales and down from #4 to #9. The best selling Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid is no longer the C-Class, but the GLC at #10.
In 2019 we expect a wave of new plug-in hybrid models, most notably versions of the Peugeot 508 and 3008, as well as the latter’s siblings Opel/Vauxhall Grandland X and DS7 Crossback, Volkswagen will relaunch the Golf GTE and Passat GTE with larger battery packs and Porsche will relaunch the Cayenne and Panamera e-Hybrid as well as a Bentley Bentayga with the same technology. BMW will add the X3 to its PHEV portfolio and Mercedes-Benz will bring updated plug-in versions of the C-, E- and S-Class. Jeep is launching plug-in versions of its Renegade, Compass and Wrangler, Audi of the Q5, A6, A7 and A8, and Volvo will launch the S60 with the twin engine technology.
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