Sweden Plugin Electric Vehicle Share At 34.8% In Record February

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Sweden saw plugin electric vehicle share grow to 34.8% in February 2021, up from 25% in February 2020. The overall auto market recovered in volume year-on-year, though is still 6% below recent seasonal averages. Plugin hybrids dominated, but full electric vehicles will get more support from April.

February’s 34.8% combined plugin share consisted mainly of plugin hybrids (PHEVs) at 28.7% of the auto market, with full battery electrics (BEVs) at a distant 6.1%. This is a swing towards PHEVs from 2020’s full year ratio of 2.4:1. However, there’s also pull-forward pressure on PHEV sales right now because their incentive support will be reduced from April 2021 onwards, and BEV support will correspondingly increase.

Industry association, BIL Sweden, summarizes the coming changes thus:

“The new bonus-malus system, which enters into force in April, has contributed to this development. The charging hybrids will then receive an average of SEK 10,000 lower bonus at the same time as the electric cars will receive a corresponding increase… The vehicle tax, the malus, will be sharply increased on 1 April for cars that emit more than 90 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.” (BIL Sweden, translated).

These bonus-malus changes will put further downward pressure on the sales of non-plugin vehicles (above CO2 90 g/km), in favour of plugins. Within plugin categories, the rebalancing of support towards BEVs from PHEVs will lead to noticeably increased BEV share from April onwards. Before then, PHEVs are enjoying a pull-forward which is noticeable this month, and will also be seen in March.

Best Selling BEVs

Before their anticipated breakout in April onwards, let’s have a look at the evolution of the most popular BEV models. First, a reminder of 2020’s full year best selling BEVs:

Now the first two months of 2021:

Note that Tesla and Volkswagen are shuffling their shipping around and haven’t yet delivered in their typical volumes in Sweden in 2021. The Polestar 2 is climbing up the rankings, having launched in H2 2020, and there’s a similar story for the Volvo XC40. The VW e-Golf  has been on a phase out since the VW ID.3 appeared in September 2020.

It’s pretty remarkable that a high-end vehicle like the Porsche Taycan is in the top 10 in 2021. Over recent months the BEV Taycan has been vying with Porsche’s Cayenne SUV (mostly sold in the PHEV variant) as the brand’s best seller in Sweden. The incentive changes should push the Taycan to Porsche’s top spot.

Since Tesla and to some extent VW aim for deliveries to be optimized for quarterly results, we’ll get a clearer look at 2021’s BEV picture next month, and then see how it evolves once the incentive landscape improves. For context, the best selling PHEV (the Kia Ceed) has sold 1551 units year-to-date, around 4x the best selling BEV (the Kia Niro).

Kia Niro EV. Image courtesy Kia.

It will be interesting to see how the coming changes in the incentive landscape affects the auto market this year. Certainly there will be a big boost to the cost-of-ownership competitiveness of BEVs, but this will need to be matched with further progress in the DC charging infrastructure to help consumers make the shift.

If you have insights into Sweden’s coming incentive changes and how they will affect the auto market, and consumer sentiment, please share your thoughts in the comments.

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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 MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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