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Il Presidente della Repubblica Sergio Mattarella con John Elkann, Presidente di Fiat Chrysler Automobiles,in occasione della presentazione della nuova vettura “Fiat 500” elettrica (foto di Francesco Ammendola - Ufficio per la Stampa e la Comunicazione della Presidenza della Repubblica)

Air Quality

Italy Takes Electric Vehicle Step Forward & Then Gets Dizzy

Italy has rolled out a confusing set of subsidies for electric vehicles and fossil fueled vehicles.

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella and others next to the new, 100% electric Fiat 500. Image courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Italy has been slow to the electric vehicle party. Strongly influenced by Fiat, which fought and cried about the industry’s move toward electrification (see this and this and this and this), it has long been in denial about the competitiveness of electric vehicles, the need for electric vehicles, and the straight-up fun of electric vehicles. Even this year, when Europe is approaching 10% plug-in vehicle market share because automakers can finally get fined heavily if they keep dragging their feet and anti-selling EVs, Italy is just approaching 3% plug-in vehicle share (and this is way up from last year).

It seemed things might turn around in Italy, as the government recently proposed EV incentives to help pull itself out of the economic crisis that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. However, Italy’s Chamber of Deputies just yesterday voted for a proposal that slipped in incentives for fossil fuel vehicles. Seriously. At a time when everyone is going in the other direction — the right direction — Italy apparently got itself dizzy and is trying to go in two directions at once.

“The vote in favour of the purchase of obsolete technologies such as diesel cars is a waste of the limited public money our country has available,” Veronica Aneris, Italy director at T&E, said. “It will result in new polluting cars spewing out toxic fumes in our cities for at least another 11 years, given the average life of the vehicles. Taxpayers’ money cannot be used for technologies that are harmful to our health, our planet and the livability of our cities.”

Automakers must meet a fleet emissions target of 95g/km for the vehicles they sell in Europe this year or they will have to pay steep fines. This new subsidy would help people purchase vehicles with an emissions rating of 110g/km. It makes no sense to support the sale of such dirty vehicles.

Notably, Fiat is so far behind the curve due to years of denial and foot stomping that it will have to take the alternative to selling cleaner cars or paying steep fines — paying another automaker to produce and sell more electric vehicles on its failing behalf. That automaker is Tesla, which is getting nearly $2 billion from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in exchange for the right to produce more polluting cars. Luckily, that money will basically fund Tesla’s Giga Berlin factory in Germany.

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella and others next to the new, 100% electric Fiat 500. Image courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The extra-annoying cherry on top is that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles just rolled out the new Fiat 500, which will be fully electric. “Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte, President of Italy Sergio Mattarella, Chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles John Elkann, President of Fiat Brand Global Olivier Francois, FCA EMEA Region COO Pietro Gorlier, and other notables just launched the New 500 in Rome, Italy.” That could have been combined with more ambitious EV subsidies and a commitment to cutting the debilitation pollution in the country.

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella and others next to the new, 100% electric Fiat 500. Image courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Furthermore, as if it wasn’t cool enough slowing down the EV revolution by subsidizing polluting vehicles, the Italian policymakers voted to subsidize pollution fossil buses as well. Italy, basta!

Contrast this with Germany, which just significantly jacked up electric vehicle subsidies in order to help solve the climate crisis and air pollution crisis (which kills more people than COVID-19) while pulling itself out of the coronavirus-induced economic slump. “Under the terms of a newly announced €130 billion economic recovery package, buyers of those cars will get double the current incentive — €6,000 rather than €3,000 — until the end of 2021. In addition, manufacturers will kick in another €3,000, bringing the total available incentives up to €9,000. Buyers of conventional cars get nothing.” That’s for electric cars costing less than €40,000. Weaker but still very compelling incentives are also offered for more expensive EVs.

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella in the new, 100% electric Fiat 500. Image courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Ironically, it was Italian researchers who discovered the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the world can travel on air pollution particles. That tags onto research finding a link between air pollution and COVID-19 related deaths. You would think that, even if an overheating planet wasn’t enough to push Italian politicians to stronger action, the COVID-19 situation and air pollution’s ongoing assault on Italian life would.

A chi fa male, mai mancano scuse.


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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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