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Slow EV Growth In Europe Ending

Slow electric vehicle growth in Europe is ending. The market, extremely stable until 2018, will be exploding in 2019.

Update: It’s notable that we’re publishing this article on the day the first shipload of Tesla Model 3s for European customers is arriving into port. Get ready for swarming of the beaches, city centers, European highways, and more. See the tweets on bottom of this post.

Slow electric vehicle growth in Europe is ending. The market, quite stable until 2018, will be exploding in 2019.

As some of you may know, I am a numbers guy. I like to play with numbers, understand the world around me through numbers. That is why I am a great fan of Jose Pontes. He is always supplying me with new numbers. With his latest overview of the 20 top selling electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe in 2018, I could not resist the urge to copy those numbers, along with his 2017 and 2016 numbers, and paste them into my own spreadsheet. After some reshuffling, I got a format that told me the story I was looking for.

*The USA 2018 numbers are by

Most people prefer words over numbers, so I am going to try to tell the story hidden in these numbers.

The first thing that caught my eye was that there were not many new entrants in the market. Only 3 of the top 20 best sellers were not on the list in 2017, and 7 did not make the 2016 list. In Loren McDonald’s analysis of the USA market, he finds that most growth comes from new entrants to the market. In Europe, we have a few new entrant plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that compensate for the falling sales of other PHEVs, but the main driver is the larger batteries in established cars.

The Renault Zoe got a battery upgrade late in 2016, and was battery supply constrained in most of 2018. The Nissan Leaf did have a classic Osborne drop in sales in 2017 before the newly announced battery became available. When it became available in early 2018, sales exploded. The VW e-Golf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and BMW i3 all got a boost from bigger batteries. It appears that the main driver for market growth in Europe is larger batteries.

The idea that larger batteries are not really needed is probably true for the 2% of car buyers who bought these EVs with smaller batteries. The 98% who are in the waiting room or not interested think differently.

What the Tesla bashers on Wall Street and at Seeking Alpha won’t like are the numbers for Tesla sales. Those numbers are essentially flat. Tesla has a worldwide production capacity of 100,000 for the S & X combined. Tesla produced and delivered that number both in 2017 and 2018. In some local markets a bit more, in others a bit less.

In 2019, the Model 3 will enter the European and Chinese markets, delivering three times as many of this new car as Tesla did of its current models in these markets. Many of those will be in regions where Tesla has no, or a very small, sales and services infrastructure. That is not only in South and Central Europe, but also most of France and Germany. Even more than in the USA, Tesla will have to expand into new regions/markets.

Hello, new customers for the flagship products — S Extended Range/Performance and X Extended Range/Performance. Tesla will hit the 100,000 in 2019 just like it did in 2017 and 2018.

For the many CleanTechnica readers in the USA who keep complaining about compliance cars, the sales numbers of InsideEvs are added for comparison. When looking only at the “compliance cars” (that is, omitting the two Tesla models) that are sold both in the USA and in Europe, 2018 sales totaled 49,881 in the USA and 209,743 in Europe. As I have said before, the stagnation of the American market is not because of compliance and unwilling carmakers. It is a sales channel that doesn’t function.

Another remarkable feature of the European market is its stability. The same 4 cars (Leaf, Zoe, i3, and Outlander) have been competing for the top positions the last three years. Below them there is the decline of older PHEV models, being replaced by new PHEVs. Growth of 57% for the Ionic EV and 67% for the Smart Fortwo netted them only 1 place on the list, so strong was the overall growth. This stability will disappear in 2019 with the many new entrants waiting to enter the market.

Have a look below at the contenders for a place in the top 20 in 2019. This is the list from “European Electric Vehicle Invasion — Winners, Big Winners, & Champions.” The models that are also in the 2018 top 21 with a smaller battery or because they had a sales surge in the last month are removed.

These are the models that made the 2018 top 21 but can expect significant sales growth in 2019 because of a battery upgrade or because they were just sold in the last months of 2018:

*Prices are determined after extensive studies using tea leaves, different crystal balls, laying the tarot, and drawing each car’s horoscope. If at some future date a dealer (or, heaven forbid, a carmaker) decides to use a different price, the stars are at fault. You can not hold me responsible (I don’t know what that is).

These are all fully electric cars. Most of these have the potential to sell more than the #20 of 2018. As Jose Pontes pointed out, the two best selling cars in Europe (VW-Golf and Renault Clio) have their electric counterparts (Zoe and e-Golf) as the #2 and #5 in the 2018 list. They both have upgrades in 2019. The Zoe upgrade is too late in the year, but the Leaf e+ could surprise us, competing with the Tesla Model 3 for the #1 spot. For 2020, we have at least 4 competitors for #1 spot; the Model 3, Leaf e+, Zoe II, and ID Neo.

The Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa are two more European toppers that have an existing following. Their EVs are the outsiders for a place on the podium. The VW micro car triplet (e-Up!, e-Citigo, e-Mii) are the leaders in their class. They all get a fully functional modern electric car as a new version in their lineup. There is no predicting how many of their sales will switch to electric. With this kind of disruption, the sedate stability of the past couple of years will be shot to pieces.

There are also about a dozen new plug-in hybrids expected to enter the market. What kind of numbers we can expect from those is a big question mark at the moment. Some will probably also aim for a top 20 position on Jose’s 2019 list (or 2020 list when launched later in the year).

Europe is entering a period of China-like growth. The slow but steady low-double-digit growth is over. It will now be high-double-digit (or perhaps even triple-digit) growth. Expect 600,000 to 800,000 sales in 2019 and up to 1.5 million in 2020.

To have any insight, Jose Pontes should go to a top 30 for Europe. The “others” line will still be too big.

Update: We are now receiving tweets of the ship carrying the first 1,000 Model 3s for European customers arriving into port in Belgium:

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Written By

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car.


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