Sales of battery electric cars have overtaken diesel for the first time in Europe, FinancialTimes reported Sunday.
This is an important step, as diesel has been the default choice for European car buyers for decades. Registrations of new “electrified” vehicles – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and combination battery-electric cars – overtook diesel in September 2020, but this is the first time that battery-electric models have outsold the diesels, according to the report. .
In December 2021, more than a fifth of new cars sold in 18 European markets were fully electric, while diesel cars (including diesel hybrids) accounted for less than 19% of sales, according to the report, which is based on data compiled by the FinancialTimes and independent automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt.
Production Mercedes-Benz EQS 2022 at the plant in Sindelfingen, Germany
Around 176,000 battery electric vehicles were sold in Western Europe that month, compared to around 160,000 diesel cars, the report said. This total is also an all-time high for European electric vehicle sales and is more than 6% higher than the comparable December 2020 figure, according to the report.
The historic institution of diesel cars was partly due to European diesel fuel subsidies, which created an artificially strong market. Europe was electrifying at a slow pace, but the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal proved to be a key tipping point.
Sales of electric vehicles in Europe have risen steadily since the VW scandal, helped by generous incentives in countries like Germany, as well as stricter European Union regulations introduced in 2020 that force automakers to sell more low-emission vehicles, according to the report.
Sales accelerated in late 2021 thanks in part to Tesla’s strong fourth-quarter delivery volumes and European automakers pushing electric vehicle sales through December to meet fleet emissions targets, the report said. These automakers reportedly prioritized more cost-effective internal combustion SUVs earlier in the year as they grappled with the supply chain crisis.
As data from industry groups and the EU point out, however, Europe is moving at two speeds when it comes to EV adoption. A 2020 report found that the adoption of electric vehicles was growing much faster in wealthier countries, including likely most of the Western European countries of the FinancialTimes report – and slower in the poorest countries.