Sales of electric cars in Europe surpass 1.2 million in 2021

Sales of electric vehicles in Europe now represent over 10 per cent of the total new car market as petrol- and diesel-powered cars record big drops in reported sales.

Sales of electric vehicles almost doubled in Europe in 2021 – despite a general downturn in the new-car market – driven by the ongoing effects of the global pandemic and semiconductor shortages.

While the overall new-car market was down 1.9 per cent year on year, sales of electric vehicles were up 63.4 per cent – from 745,644 in 2020 to 1,218,360 last year, according to figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

In Europe, a total of 11,774,885 new cars were reported as sold in 2021 – across all types – which was only marginally lower than the 11.95 million from the previous year.

The ACEA publishes sales data from member nations of the European Union as well as three countries that are part of a European Free Trade Agreement (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) – and former EU member but now standalone nation, the United Kingdom.

Leading the electric charge in Europe was the Tesla Model 3 sedan, with reported sales of 141,429 – almost double the next best-selling electric vehicle, the Renault Zoe (71,614).

Volkswagen’s ID siblings, the ID.3 and ID.4, clocked up 69,206 and 54,715 sales respectively, while the Kia Niro EV accounted for 46,705 sales.

Tesla’s dominance saw the Model 3 inside the top 20 of overall car sales in Europe.

The Tesla Model 3 finished the year as Europe’s 17th best-selling vehicle as Volkswagen’s Golf ended 2021 on top for the 14th year in succession, with sales of 205,405 from the start of January through to the end of December.

While the VW Golf maintained its winning streak, it did so with a 27.9 per cent decline in sales compared with 2020, when the Golf clocked up sales in excess of 300,000 for Volkswagen.

Such is the hatchback’s dominance in Europe, the Golf has been the region’s best-selling car annually since 1983 in all but five years, losing its crown only in 1997 (Fiat Punto), 2003 (Peugeot 206), 2005-2006 (Opel/Vauxhall Astra) and 2007 (Peugeot 207).

Peugeot had the second-best selling car in 2021, its 208 hatchback notching up 196,729 sales (down 1.1 per cent) ahead of the Dacia Sandero (196,729 up 16.9 per cent), Renault Clio (196,243 down 21.1 per cent) and Peugeot 2008 (194,6563 up 24.4 per cent).

Thanks to the surge in sales, electric vehicles accounted for 10.3 per cent of Europe’s new car market in 2021, with almost every market recording double- or triple-digit percentage growth.

Greece enjoyed the biggest percentage growth, sales of electric cars up by 220.5 per cent in the Adriatic nation. But Greece is coming off a low base. Just 679 electric cars were reported as sold in 2020 but thanks to a swathe of government incentives, sales surged to 2176 last year.

Germany continues to lead the way in terms of pure numbers, with 2021 seeing 356,425 electric cars find new homes. That’s up 83.3 per cent over the previous year and represents 13.67 per cent of its total new car market. Germans bought 2,622,132 new cars in 2021, a drop of 10.1 per cent over the previous year.

Sales of electric cars were up by 76.3 per cent in the United Kingdom, from 108,205 in 2020 to 190,227 last year. Electric vehicles accounted for 11.5 per cent of the UK’s 1,647,181 new car market.

The market share in Europe for electrified vehicles jumps to almost 20 per cent (19.2) when plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are added to the mix. PHEVs added a further 1,045,022 to the total, an increase of 68.5 per cent year-on-year. Europe’s top-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle was the Ford Kuga PHEV (known as the Escape PHEV in Australia) with reported sales of 46,448 in 2021.

Overall, more than 2.2 million plug-in vehicles were reported as sold in Europe last year. For context, sales of petrol-powered cars in Europe numbered 4,756,897 in 2021 – down 17.4 per cent – while diesel vehicles accounted for 2,078,022 reported sales, down 33.1 per cent.

Australia’s growth in plug-in vehicle sales outstripped that of Europe in percentage terms, albeit from a low base.

In 2021, sales of electrified (battery electric and plug-in hybrid) vehicles in Australia numbered 20,615 (17,243 electric and 3372 PHEV), accounting for just 1.96 per cent of the overall new vehicle market. That represents growth of 231.66 per cent (electric) and 99.4 per cent (PHEV).

As was the case in Europe last year, the Tesla Model 3 was Australia’s top-selling electric car with 12,094 examples indicated as sold in 2021, an increase of 252.6 per cent year-on-year. In 2020, Tesla reported 3430 new cars as sold in Australia.

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