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.

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