November Breaks Italy’s EV Sales Records & Little Giant Fiat 500e Enters Market

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Originally published on opportunity:energy.

November marks yet another fantastic month for the rise of electric mobility in Italy, the fourth largest European car market, as EV sales broke records once again. Meanwhile, traditional car sales struggle as their share of fiscal stimulus ends. With more new EVs entering the scene every month, we are likely witnessing a key moment in the ongoing shift to electric mobility in the country.

After a wild ride throughout the year, and in the face of a global health emergency, Italy’s electric car market grew even stronger in November. UNRAE data show a consolidating picture, amidst lower overall sales. At less than 140,000 registrations, this month the market is in fact down more than 8% year over year (YoY), compared to the over 152,000 units of November 2019.

Traditional car registrations keep retreating, with petrol and diesel models now making up about 31% and 29% of the market respectively, marking a very bad month for internal combustion engine (ICE) sales. With the recent government incentive scheme’s limited funds allocated to Euro 6 cars running out, sales are starting to dwindle. And the electric competition doesn’t help. Plugless hybrids absorb a good part of the ICE fall and now stand at 23% market share, in line with recent months. It is plug-in vehicles, however, that shine the brightest in this month of contrasts.

Full electric cars raced to new highs with 4,810 units in November, reaching 3.4% market share. That’s almost 5 times the sales figures from 12 months ago, when registrations stood at 1,068 units. It is also 20% higher than the previous record, set just two months prior in September, when 4,089 units were sold at the end of the third quarter.

Plug-in hybrids followed suit, marking their own new monthly record with 4,940 registrations — at 3.5% market share, that was more than 5 times the 982 registrations for the same month last year. All plug-in vehicle sales combined are now at almost 7% of the market, a figure that was unthinkable just a few months ago in this particular market, and a big leap from the previous September high of 4.4%. The ongoing enhanced EV incentives, paired with new models and increased visibility among the public, are having the same snowballing effect on sales that other European countries are experiencing, albeit at a slightly reduced rate. But things may be about to change.

Last month’s records came in part with the help of some brand new models that jumped straight to the BEV Top 10.

As a bit of a surprise, the soon-to-be retired Volkswagen e-up! took the top spot for the first time, with 657 registrations (this model’s own record), probably fulfilling most of the orders left over for the year — it’s unavailable for new orders since September. The Smart ForTwo (October’s best seller) followed in second place with 558 registrations, trailed by the Renault Zoe, which completed a familiar podium at 554 registrations. What follows are instead two very important new entries for the Italian EV market.

In fourth position, the brand new Fiat 500e made its debut in its home market with 513 registrations, an impressive start for this pricey mini car, which will likely be followed by strong sales in the coming months as cheaper trims become available. The first mass-market BEV by FCA is not just an important bet for the future of the Italian automaker, but is crucial to improving the visibility and acceptance of electric cars in the Italian market. With plenty of style and all the right specs for its segment, this model alone can act as a powerful electric mobility ambassador for all other existing and upcoming models.

The small Fiat is, however, not alone in its mission. The Renault Twingo ZE also debuted in the Italian BEV market last month, coming in fifth with 411 registrations. Its micro size and attractive price are perfectly matched with Italian demand, and we can expect this model to become a staple presence among the best sellers, if production rates meet that demand.

After the two hot new entries, well known names fill the rest of the chart. The Tesla Model 3 took sixth place with 243 registrations, not a bad figure ahead of its year-end rush. The Mini Cooper SE followed in seventh position with 233 registrations, with the Peugeot e-208 (223 units), the Hyundai Kona EV (216), and the Smart ForFour (170) closing a high-density Top 10 chart. Will December stats break new records? We bet so.

Noticeably absent, the Volkswagen ID.3 is nowhere to be seen following its September–October appearances. Given its early popularity among other European markets, Volkswagen is likely simply directing current production to a few core European countries ahead of a real push to the rest of the continent.

With a few new hot models now in the mix, Italy’s electric car market is quickly taking a new shape and challenging the status quo. New affordable, compact BEVs from legacy carmakers are entering the scene at a monthly pace and increasing electric cars’ appeal to an ever broader base of consumers. As carsharing companies in big cities like Turin, Milan, and Rome now plan to take advantage of these new models with entirely electric fleets of city cars, it looks like electric mobility in Italy is finally shifting to top gear.

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Carlo Ombello

Carlo Ombello is an environmental engineer based in London. He writes about environment, sustainability and green technologies on his blog opportunity:energy.

Carlo Ombello has 72 posts and counting. See all posts by Carlo Ombello