AFV registrations grow in Europe as ACEA predicts new car slowdown

01 February 2018

01 February 2018

Registrations of new alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) in Europe grew again in Q4 2017, highlighting a desire by consumers to move to greener automotive technology.

Demand grew by 35.1% in the final three months of last year, representing 227,378 units being shipped by dealerships across the continent. This was 6.7% of the total Q4 new registration market in Europe for 2017, which totalled 15 million units and was the first time this number had been achieved since 2007.

The figures were released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, and see registrations of pure electric vehicles (EVs) were up by 54.8%, with hybrid vehicles seeing a 43.3% growth. Demand for plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) also continued to grow, although with a more moderate pace, just 15%, than previous quarters of the year.

Compared to one year ago AFV sales almost doubled in Spain with a rise of 90.8%, followed by Germany with 76.8% of growth. The UK saw a rise of 35.6%, France was up 33.4%, and Italy’s AFV market grew 30.7%, benefiting from recovering demand for liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuelled cars, as in previous quarters.

Overall in 2017, 852,933 alternative fuel vehicles were registered in the European Union, up 39.7% compared to 2016. The uplift was mainly driven by the hybrid segment (up 54.8%), followed electrically-chargeable vehicles (39.0%) and other alternative fuels (16.4%) that returned to growth after losing ground in 2016. When looking at their market share, alternative fuel vehicles still only play a minor role in the European Union. Alternatively″powered cars accounted for 5.7% of the EU market in 2017, with electrically″chargeable vehicles constituting 1.4% of total passenger car sales last year.

However, despite the growth of the total market by 3.4% in 2017, ACEA is forecasting a slowdown for this year, with the market only expected to grow by 1% across all European countries.

′The European automobile industry is on a pathway to recovery, finally coming close to pre-crisis sales and production figures after a full decade,’ stated Carlos Tavares, ACEA President and Chairman of the Managing Board of PSA Group. ′But in light of major EU legislation ahead of us, notably new CO2 targets for cars and vans as well as the threat of Brexit, this recovery is fragile. We must, therefore, maximise efforts to safeguard our industry’s competitiveness.’

ACEA is concerned that the current CO2 proposal, released by the European Commission late last year, is not fully technology-neutral. ′Our industry is fully committed to sustainable mobility, and to further reducing our environmental footprint,’ Tavares explained. ′When it comes to decarbonisation, policy must be driven by results. Policymakers should, of course, fix ambitious objectives for CO2 reductions, but should not impose the technology choice.’

The body believes that methods of calculating the ′low-emission vehicle’ benchmark mean the EU Commission is pushing for EVs and not considering other alternatives. The low uptake compared to traditional engines and even hybrids means the proposal for CO2 reduction needs to be carefully considered.

Regarding Brexit, ACEA urges the negotiators to resolve uncertainty by coming to a swift agreement on the transitional period. ′It is a struggle for our industry to make investment decisions when we don’t know what is just around the corner,’ explained Tavares. ACEA believes that this transition period should be close to three years, to give businesses the time they need to adapt to new realities and to allow for crucial facilities, like customs infrastructure, to be built to a level that can cope with the additional demands.