Europe’s Electric-Car Share Surge Endures as Market Recovers

The shift to electric cars in Europe is proving to have staying power.

Fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for about 15% of passenger-car sales in the first quarter, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said Friday. While that’s slightly less than during the three months through December, when stricter emissions rules led to a late surge in shipments, it’s still almost double than the year-earlier period.

Europe overtook China as the biggest market for battery-powered cars in 2020, a lead the region is expected to defend this year amid generous subsidies in Germany, France and Italy and a slew of new offerings from the likes of Volkswagen AG and Stellantis NV. The latest numbers should help allay concerns about the electric shift’s sustainability -- raised when automakers pushed EVs into the market late last year to avoid fines for overshooting emissions limits.

Cars with a plug accounted for 8% of sales in China in the first quarter, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Europe’s Electric-Car Share Surge Endures as Market Recovers

In Europe, sales of plug-in hybrid cars rose faster than EVs during the quarter. Their market share climbed to 8.1%, up from 3.2%, while fully battery-powered autos accounted for 6.6% of registrations, from 4.2% last year. Total sales of electrified vehicles roughly doubled from the year-earlier period, when the first wave of the pandemic shuttered factories and showrooms.

The resilient EV sales are a boon to traditional carmakers that have invested massively in retooling their fleets, and investors are increasingly optimistic that they can successfully shift to the electric age.

Volkswagen last year became the No. 1 electric-vehicle maker in Europe and aims to supplant Tesla Inc. as the global leader no later than 2025. Its preference shares have gained more than 50% this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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