New data: Even as electric-car sales surge, petrol and hybrid cars remain dominant


New figures from the European automotive industry reflect the growing trend in sales of electric vehicles in 2021 – but also show that petrol and hybrid vehicles still make up the vast majority of new passenger cars in the EU.

The takeaway is clear: the EU needs a range of emissions-reduction solutions, including renewable liquid fuels such as ethanol, to meet its climate ambitions. That’s because even with the gradual electrification of the EU auto fleet, cars that run on some kind of liquid fuel – including plug-in hybrids (PHEV), hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV) and petrol-driven internal-combustion-engine vehicles (ICE) – will be on Europe’s roads for a long time to come.

Why the EU needs renewable ethanol in its transport energy mix

Renewable ethanol, which in the case of ePURE members reduces emissions on average by more than 75% compared to fossil petrol, is the most immediate, sustainable and cost-effective and socially-inclusive solution to decarbonizing these cars.

The new 2021 data come from ACEA, the European automobile manufacturers association. According to their figures, vehicles that run on some kind of liquid fuel made up nearly 70% of the new car sales last year, including petrol cars (40%), HEV (19.6%) and PHEV (8.9%). Pure battery-electric (BEV) cars accounted for 9.1% of the new cars in 2021 – a figure that is sure to grow this year with EU policy incentives and changes to infrastructure. But it's also clear that petrol, HEV and PHEV sales will also continue to be a majority in the coming years.

Even if the EU decides to effectively ban new sales of ICE cars by 2035, petrol, HEV and PHEV cars will be on the road, and reducing their emissions will still be an important priority. EU policymakers need to consider this as they overhaul new legislation on renewable energy, energy taxation and CO2 standards for cars. Focusing only on electrification will not be enough.

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