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How realistic is Europe’s strategy to cut CO2 emissions?

13/07/2018

Europe’s plans for decarbonising transport may need some tweaking, according to a new study from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) that looks at barriers to the uptake of electrically chargeable cars in the European Union. The EU’s current clean mobility plans rely heavily on a massive growth of electric vehicles in the auto market.

“Even though European automakers are expanding their portfolios of alternatively-powered cars, and electric ones in particular,” the report’s authors write, “we unfortunately see that market penetration of these vehicles is still low and very fragmented across the EU.”

The ACEA study notes that electrically chargeable vehicles (ECVs) currently make up 1.5% of total new car sales in the European Union, with huge differences between the 28 Member States. “The reality is that the market acceptance of ECVs depends on several factors that are beyond the control of automobile manufacturers,” according to the report.

The affordability of electric cars remains a strong deterrent for customers across the EU, according to ACEA. Its analysis, which compares national data on the market uptake of electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECVs) with GDP per capita, shows that the market share of ECVs is close to 0% in countries with a GDP below €18,000, while it is no more than 0.75% in half of all EU member states.

The European Commission has proposed a ‘benchmark’ for the sales of full battery-electric cars at the level of 15% by 2025, and 30% by 2030. To put this in context, battery-electric cars accounted for just 0.7% of total EU car sales in 2017.

Besides affordability, ACEA also highlights other barriers to the uptake of ECVs, including an imbalanced supply of charging and refuelling infrastructure as well as insufficient support for investments.

The ACEA report follows a study from RICARDO Energy & Environment confirming that low-carbon fuels like renewable EU ethanol could provide additional GHG reductions that would otherwise not be achieved and could also mitigate for potential uncertainty in longer-term GHG intensity of electricity.