Winter In Germany: Fossil Vehicle Sales Slide 15% As EV Market Share Increases From 2.5% To 6.5%

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Europe’s largest auto market, Germany, saw January fossil fuel vehicle sales drop by over 15% year-on-year, with gasoline vehicles alone down over 17%. Meanwhile, EVs increased their market share to 6.5% from 2.5%. Europe’s big five markets are now at a combined 6.0% EV market share. What progress will full year 2020 bring overall?

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Parsing out the electric vehicle mix, pure battery electrics took 3% market share, with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) taking 3.5%. Regular hybrids and mild-hybrids also saw good growth, to 9% market share, but we do not include them under the “electric vehicle” umbrella.

As I’ve recently discussed elsewhere, non-plug-in hybrids can certainly boost the efficiency of old-school combustion engines, which is sorely needed, as Germany’s average CO2/km still came in at 151.5 grams, almost 60% above the European fleet target for 2020. However, non-plug-in hybrids are not able to meet the more ambitious emissions targets that will phase in over the current decade. This will require plug-in vehicles with a range of ~50 km (~30 miles) or more.

We don’t yet have much data on which EV models led the German charge in January. Renault said that the Zoe sold 1,800 units in the country. Tesla didn’t see a major shipment arriving in Europe in time for January sales, but per-manufacturer data showed it moved 367 vehicles in Germany, presumably from small amounts of last quarter’s stock. Once the ships start delivering again, expect March 2020 to see closer to the record 1,515 Model 3 sales that were seen in September 2019. We know that Volkswagen’s ID.3 will sell relatively well in Germany when it arrives in decent volumes in the coming summer.

European Market Dynamics

As I mentioned when discussing France’s breakout January EV market share of 11%, there are good reasons for this 2020 surge of EVs across Europe. Germany’s big jump from 2.5% a year ago to 6.5% this year was partly due to manufacturers stockpiling EVs late last year to be able to make a big push to meet the stricter EU fleet emissions requirements of 2020.

January may therefore be showing a spring-back trend which might cool a bit in the coming months, but not by much. Germany should anyway comfortably exceed 5% EV market share for full year 2020, from 3.1% in 2019.

Let’s not forget that growing EV market share is also a function of more-than-linear declines in fossil fuel vehicle sales. For diesel and gasoline vehicles to have fallen by over 15% (gasoline alone over 17%) suggests that large numbers of folks are certainly turning away from buying the aging and polluting technology. France, the UK, and other European markets are also seeing disproportionate falls in fossil vehicle sales this year. This has all the signs of the early stages of the Osborne Effect, as we have been predicting for several years.

With Germany at 6.5%, France at 11%, the UK at 5.9%, Spain at 3.9%, and Italy at 2.1% … Europe’s “big 5” have together reached 6.0% EV market share in January, and over 46,000 combined EV sales. Europe’s smaller markets are often further ahead (Norway 64%, Sweden 30%, Portugal 11% … and more), so the January combined total may lift to ~8% or higher when all the numbers are in.

What are you thoughts on full year EV market share in Germany, and Europe overall? Please jump into the comments and share your ideas.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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