Thanks to the release of several new models, electric car sales in the EU rose by approximately 100% in 2013 though they still only make up 0.4% of all cars sold. Governments all over the EU are pinning their hopes on electric cars as a means of tackling climate change and air pollution but car manufacturers are lobbying hard against existing rules on emissions.
In 2012, around 22,000 plug-in models were sold but this increased to almost 50,000 in 2013. The relatively rapid rise was driven by a trio of models that sold around 8,000 units apiece according to data released by the Transport & Environment (T&E) campaign group. The aforementioned models are the Outlander from Mitsubishi which costs over £28,000 after subsidy, the Renault Zoe which costs £14,000 after a £5,000 subsidy from the UK Government and the V60 plug-in from Volvo which is by far the most expensive vehicle at over £44,000 after subsidy.
According to T&E’s Greg Archer, electric cars are still too expensive for people even though they are growing in popularity. However, they will eventually get cheaper and this is when electric cars will really begin to compete with their gasoline rivals. He described the new form of transport as a ‘revolution’ and said it would take time to happen. Archer also stated that the hype surrounding the vehicles a few years ago was never going to be justified.
The rapidly changing market can be seen by the fact that the Peugeot Citroen iOn/C-zero and Opel Ampera suffered a fall in sales after being the big sellers in 2012. Archer said that the public are benefitting from better services being offered. He noted that use of a conventional car over long journeys is being offered as part of the new sales package from various companies.
Electric car exhibition. Image: Dreamstime.com
Archer was adamant that the existing vehicle subsidies were not sustainable and cutting overall emissions for the fleet of cars produced by each manufacturer was a better way of ensuring more zero-emission vehicles were developed in the next few years. At present, cars are responsible for around 15% of the total CO2 emissions in Europe. The EU limits for CO2 emissions in fleets have been set for 2015 and for 2021 but plans to set limits for 2025 or 2030 have been placed on hold.
Archer pointed out that the car industry was pushing hard against the new emissions standards with the German Government and German car manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW the most vocal critics of these limits. Angela Merkel and David Cameron were accused of trying to negotiate a secret deal which would involve the UK supporting the German lobby for its carmakers. In return, Germany would protect the UK banking sector. Incidentally, US President Barack Obama has set new targets for cleaner cars beginning in 2017.
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, announced new measures to penalise diesel vehicles as a means of reducing the level of illegal pollution in the city. Greg Archer had the final word as he said that electric cars were an essential part of solving the problem of air pollution in cities. However, he acknowledged that we would not see large numbers of electric cars on the road for many years so other measures had to be taken today.