Electric Car Sales: France Leads Way, Even Without Individual Buyers

By · January 17, 2012

Two-thousand, six-hundred, and twenty-nine cars. That is the number of electric cars sold in France in 2011.

It doesn't sound like much, but it was more sales than in Germany—a larger overall auto market—and more sales than in the UK, Spain and Italy combined. Besides raw sales numbers, France also leads when it comes to market share, but this is where the good news ends. With 2,204,229 new cars sold last year in France, the 2,629 electrics are a very small piece of the pie. Worse, the most optimistic estimate is that fewer than 500 cars have been bought by individuals. There's no official data, but it's clear that most EVs have been sold to fleet-buyers.

Many companies, government agencies, managers and administrators want to act green—well, sometimes, they just want to look green—and adding a few EVs to the fleet helps. We should expect this movement to significantly grow in 2012. Several government agencies have already said they will buy hundreds of EVs this year. There's also the Parisian Autolib car-sharing service, which is expected to grow by more than 2,500 cars in 2012.

Renault Fluence electric car

Renault Fluence electric car

Altogether, there should be more than 6,500 electric cars sold in France this year, and that is without a French individual buying a single one. There should also be as many commercial vehicles, with thousands of electric Renault Kangoos going to the postal service. It's then a safe bet to say that France will be the leading country when it comes to having EVs on the road. But that doesn't say anything about electric cars being successful with new cars buyers.

Renault Kangoo electric car

Renault Kangoo electric car

The government organized a gathering of large fleet-buyers, and enticed them to buy EVs. It explained that this pro-electric move was needed to help car manufacturers put EVs into regular production, and that all those fleet sales would jump-start EV sales in the country. Of course, the government had to bring some money in the game to make the plan work. There is a €5,000 cash incentive (US $6,371) for any electric car sale in France, no matter if the buyer is an individual or a company. Yet that is not enough to level the price of an EV with the price of a gasoline car. People still see an EV as significantly more expensive, but the government's plan may have brought some success. With the assurance of some level of sales, car manufacturers have been able to lower their price. Case in point: Just last week in France, the Peugeot Ion and the Citroën C-Zero—sister-models to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV—are €6,000 (US $7,700) cheaper than they were last year.

Peugeot Ion electric car

Peugeot Ion electric car

An electric Peugeot Ion is now €29,500, and you can deduct the €5,000 incentive from that, so it's €24,500 ($31,216)—cheaper than a Toyota Prius which has a base price of €27,800 ($35,421) here. No arguing that the Prius is a vastly better car, but electric cars are getting cheaper, and that was the goal.

We can now hope that the electric car will go viral, that from the sight of seeing EVs on the road, the average guy on the street—those who had never thought of buying electric—might think about it. There's still a long way to go, but times are changing. A green conscience is growing and more electric models are on the way. Now, it's up to private buyers to take it to the next stage.

New to EVs? Start here

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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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