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A Cold December For EVs In Italy — Amidst Car Market Rebound

Originally published on opportunity:energy.

Italy’s EV market ended a weak 2022 with a December in line with the unimpressive figures posted in previous months. While the overall car market showed good signs of recovery, plugins yet again stalled in what is a reverse trend not followed by any other major European nation.

Official statistics from UNRAE complete the picture of a difficult year for Italy’s shift to electric mobility with remarkably unflattering figures. Overall car sales saw very healthy levels, with almost 107,000 units for the month of December. This meant a 20% year-on-year (YoY) increase from fewer than 89,000 units a year prior. But contrary to what many would consider common sense, such a boost was not in the direction the rest of Europe is taking. Pure ICE vehicles maintained their relative market share levels unscathed, with petrol and diesel powertrains at 25.5% and 20.5% respectively (they were at 26.1% and 20.5% twelve months before). The overall market volume increase, however, means absolute registrations for ICE vehicles also rose in tune with it by similar margins, a move that contradicts broader trends in the automotive market. The big winners of the month were actually traditional, plugless hybrids, which were the main reason for this market rebound. Hybrids themselves rose by over 10,000 units YoY to over 37,000 registrations, equal to 34.6% market share (compared to 30.1% a year before).

Full electric cars did not go beyond 4,598 units in December, ending at 4.3% market share. That’s a far cry from the figures of December 2021, when BEVs had scored over 6,200 registrations for a 7% market share (crowning a big year for electric mobility in the country). This underwhelming result, again an almost 26% decrease YoY (as we saw in November), is all the more puzzling given that end-of-year EV sales tend to come with a big push by at least some carmakers (most notably Tesla). But none of that happened this time around, leaving pure electrics to trail most other powertrains.

Plugin hybrids yet again showed better results than BEVs, scoring 5,473 registrations, or 5.1% market share. This was also a decline YoY from the 5,700+ registrations PHEVs boasted twelve months before, but not nearly as bad as the result from BEVs.

The surprising decline of plugins in an otherwise rebounding car market caused their combined market share to decline more substantially YoY to 9.4%, when just a year before it had reached 13.4%.

December’s top 10 BEV chart shows inevitably underwhelming numbers, with some unusual entries.

The Smart ForTwo claimed the last top spot of the year, albeit with a not-so-impressive 447 registrations. The Tesla Model Y followed closely in second position with 412 registrations, a rather weak result in what would normally be one of the four delivery peaks of the year, if not the highest overall. The typical Tesla end-of-year delivery push could have easily resulted in 1,000+ registrations (which the Model Y reached in September, the only BEV to do so in 2022). However, it did not materialise for the Italian market this time around, thus accentuating the overall BEV market decline. The Fiat 500e, queen of Italy’s full electrics, completed the deflated podium with 303 registrations, far from its past highs and far from a top spot since August.

Beyond the top three, the Renault Twingo ZE and Dacia Spring retained their ranks in fourth and fifth place, although still far from their broadly untapped potential. Time for an aggressive move and pricing review? Or simply time to finally match unmet demand with deliveries? Further down, an unusual Volkswagen trio — the ID.3, ID.4, and ID.5 — filled the lower ranks of the chart, possibly their own little quarter-end push. The ID.5 made its first appearance in the top 10, with 159 registrations, landing on the table in ninth place. It’s hard to tell whether the MEB platform models’ appearance could mark the start of a new phase for the German brand, but given the lukewarm reception of the IDs so far, this seems unlikely.

In another subdued month for electric mobility, it is not just the low sales numbers of A-segment popular minis that raises alarm, but also the absence of the usual end-of-year push by Tesla, which was regularly in action elsewhere on the Continent. It’s probably not just a reduced appetite at play in Italy’s current EV market, but also a deprioritisation by all carmakers, which in an uncertain year — across some European countries and Italy in particular — may have decided to focus their sales efforts where they would better pay off. With the rest of Europe pushing electric mobility to new highs, Italy’s hope for a spark of new life in its EV market may ultimately come from a rebalanced global supply, whatever the horizon for that may be.

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


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