EVs in Europe: 2012 Winners and 2013 Forecasts

By · January 16, 2013

The Renault Twizy, the best selling EV in Europe

The Renault Twizy, the best selling EV in Europe.

There were less than 20,000 electric cars sold in the whole European Union in 2012. That is much less than anticipated, but sales data are nonetheless revealing. Surprise: the best selling EV in Europe is not really a car. It's the Renault Twizy. Renault delivered more than 6,783 of the little bug last year. It's well known that some customers bought one as a fashion statement, so nobody knows if this relative success will continue, but at the very least, the Twizy gives the message that manufacturers should not be afraid to try something different. There are always customers out there for new things.

The Renault Kangoo, the best selling electric car-like vehicle in Europe

The Renault Kangoo, the best selling electric car-like vehicle in Europe.

Behind the Twizy, the most successful car-like electric vehicle is the Renault Kangoo. It comes either as a family car or as a compact van, with bulk of sales going for the utility version. There were 5,684 electric Kangoos sold last year in Europe, with the Nissan LEAF right behind with a total of 5,457 cars. This is much less than the 9,819 sold in the U.S. and that has to be seen as a failure for the several European governments which put in place large incentives for buying an EV.

There are huge differences between countries. The one where EVs have gained the largest share was Norway. While representing less than 1 percent of the European population, Norwegians bought 45 percentl of all the Nissan LEAFs sold in Europe last year. A few years ago, EVS24 was in Norway, and the country explained there how supportive it was of electric mobility, but nobody thought it would led Europe by such a huge margin.

A Nissan Leaf in Norway, the leading country for EVs

A Nissan Leaf in Norway, the leading country for EVs.

Norway's success with EVs has already been covered here by Jack Collins, but a few things must be added, most notably the role of geography. Norway is way up North. Today, in Southern Norway, there's about 6 hours of daylight per day while in Northern Norway, there's none. It's nighttime during daytime, and in a place like this, the grid and everything electric must be 100 percent bulletproof. The Norwegian grid is assuredly one of the world's stoutest, and when the country built the thousands of charging stations that EV fans are waiting for everywhere else, the cost was lower than anywhere else. Norway also has plenty of energy. Much more than it can use. So it's simply good policy to sell all the gas and oil abroad while Norwegians will use the electricity coming from hydropower, because it's the most difficult energy to sell abroad.

France is also notable, because in 2012 it was the leading European country for EV sales. And at the same time, it was a huge disappointment, with sales of only 5,663 electric passenger cars and 3,651 electric utility vehicles. Considering France has a huge (and unsustainable) €7,000 ($9,309) cash incentive (not a tax deduction like in the U.S.) for buying an EV, much more volume was expected. The wide availability of the Renault Zoe and the Smart Electric Drive could change things this year.

Now some forecasts for 2013: I estimate that the Renault Zoe will become in 2013 the continent's best selling EV, bypassing the Nissan LEAF. Norway will maintain its position as the European EV paradise, while France will still be the country which sees the most sales (with Germany in a close second). But the overall EV market will remain very small.


· · 5 years ago

6,783 Twizys?? sure?

In Renault website, monthly sales, from janury to november 8.727 units.

· · 5 years ago

Thanks for the summary from the European perspective, but I take exception to your "unsustainable" jibe at cash incentives. Here in Canada, the provinces of BC, Ontario and Quebec all have point of purchase rebates, just like France. The combined funding committed from all three provinces is maybe $150 million - compare this to the billions in incentives provided to our Oil and Gas sector for exploration and record profits quarter after quarter. Furthermore, if every dollar of EV incentive funding was used, it'd put just over 20,000 EVs on the road and remove over 100 million tons of CO2 tailpipe emissions annually. Looking at it another way, it'd cost us about a $1.50 to remove a ton of CO2 from the air, let's see clean coal compare with that!

Besides, personally speaking, as a student who's already loaded up on tax credits, the US model of adding more income tax relief isn't what I need.

· · 5 years ago

Well, in the long run everything is unsustainable. So yes, when EVs are a significant portion of the market, that rebate becomes burdensome. But, by that time, it is also not needed.

· · 5 years ago

But the real EV that is the ones that don’t leave you stranded on the side of the road when the battery power is gone, have been performing very well in Europe. Volt sales, Ampera sales and Plug-in Prius sales have been much larger than pure electrics. To me that is the true reflection of EV success not the ill fated stubbornly pure EV’s that still, but the Tesla, lack a decent range.

· · 5 years ago

I would contend, Priusmaniac, that a "real" EV doesn't have a gasoline tank, an internal combustion engine or an exhaust pipe. So, by your definition, my '95 Saturn is a probably "real" EV, since it has a 12V battery to crank the electric starter motor instead of me having hand crank it in Model T fashion. Gosh, I guess we've been driving "real" EVs all these years and never realized it!

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

"a 12V battery to crank the electric starter motor" is perhaps to little indeed, but if it can make your daily commute in EV mode, that's fair enough to be called an electric. The occasional tailpipe emission in range extender on mode, doesn't really change that especially if it runs on biofuel.

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

I remember when my '67 camero (the stripped version, 140 cu in 6 cyl, 3 on the tree manual xmission, am only non-pushbotton radio) ran out of gas. I ran the thing for a block on the starter motor to get to the gas station. So did I have the world's first EV?

Correction: Maybe first plug-in-hybrid. Since i put it on the battery charger later.

· · 5 years ago

Too funny. I also had a '67 Camaro, Bill. Mine was an RS convertible, 327 V-8 2-barrel Rochester carb with a (ugh!) Powerglide auto tranny. The pull-up top's plastic rear window was so fogged that it was impossible to see out of. Hence, I drove with the top down whenever possible. The heater in that car was like a convection oven, though, and I could cruise in 40° weather with the ragtop folded back like it was a summer day, completely bathed in heat. Never drove it as an "EV," though.

Years later, I regularly started my '51 Chevy with a screwdriver. The solenoid on the starter motor failed and I didn't want to pony up the long green to buy a new one right away. So, my consulting mechanic showed me how to arc a big screwdriver across the solenoid and starter motor terminals while I reached over to the carb with my other hand to gun the throttle. Needless to say, I was always very careful to slip it into neutral first! The car was probably more theft-proof when left in this dilapidated state than when everything was functioning properly. But the Rube Goldberg starting procedure lost its novelty soon enough and, when finances improved, I got the needed part.

I hope you saw my post as being tongue-in-cheek, Priusmaniac. I, too, wish range extender engines would have the same adventurous sense of engineering as witnessed in the electric side of things. They could do it all without petroleum so easily, if they really wanted to. A tiny diesel powered by algae-based biodiesel would be a nice start.

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