Brussels, 4 February 2021 – In the fourth quarter of 2020, nearly one in six passenger cars registered in the European Union was an electrically-chargeable vehicle (16.5%). Stimulus packages introduced by governments to boost demand, following the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on car sales, sought to stimulate alternatively-powered vehicles in particular, further driving demand for low and zero-emission cars.
Overall in 2020, hybrid electric vehicles made up 11.9% of total passenger car sales across the EU, up from 5.7% in 2019. Electrically-chargeable vehicles saw a similar surge in demand last year, accounting for 10.5% of all new car registrations in the European Union, compared to a 3.0% market share the year before. Although the overall decline of 3 million units in car registrations as a result of COVID-19 hit diesel and petrol-powered vehicles the hardest, conventional fuel types still dominated EU car sales in terms of market share (75.5%) in 2020.
Petrol and diesel cars
From October to December 2020, sales of diesel and petrol cars both saw significant losses. The number of diesel vehicles registered in the EU fell by 23.0% to 730,837 units, with the majority of EU markets posting declines. As a result, diesel’s share of the car market shrank from 30.5% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 25.4% during the same period in 2020 – bringing the full-year market share of diesel down to 28%.
Demand for petrol cars suffered an even bigger drop (-33.7%), going from over 1.7 million units in 2019 to 1.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. This resulted in an EU-wide market share of 40.6%, down from 56.6% in the last quarter of 2019. Except for Ireland, all EU markets recorded declines in registrations of petrol cars during this three-month period, including the four major ones. Overall in 2020, however, petrol still accounted for almost half (47.5%) of total EU passenger car sales.
Alternatively-powered vehicles (APV)
During the fourth quarter, registrations of electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECV) in the EU jumped from 130,992 units in 2019 to almost half a million (+262.8%), surpassing hybrid electric cars in sales volume for the first time. This strong increase in demand for battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) – with registrations growing by 216.9% and 331.0% respectively – was largely driven by government stimuli for low and zero-emission vehicles. Indeed, some of the biggest gains were seen in countries with the most generous incentives. In Germany, for example, BEV registrations increased by over 500% in the last quarter of 2020.
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) saw an equally impressive increase during the fourth quarter, with sales doubling (+104.7%) from 212,612 units in 2019 to 435,260 last year, accounting for 15.1% of the EU car market. For the first time ever, more than one million units of both hybrid electric (1,182,792) and electrically-chargeable (1,045,831) passenger cars were sold in the EU from January to December 2020.
Registrations of cars running on alternative fuels – ethanol (E85), liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas (NGV) – increased by 19.6% to 69,877 units in the EU during the fourth quarter. This was mainly the result of a notable increase in sales of LPG-fuelled cars (+69.5%), while registrations of natural gas-powered vehicles contracted during the same period (-35.3%).
All alternatively-powered vehicles (APV) combined represented 34.0% of the EU car market in the fourth quarter, with almost one million units registered in total (an increase of 143.9% compared to 2019). With the exception of Cyprus, APV registrations rose across the entire EU from October to December 2020. Looking at the biggest car markets, major gains were posted by Germany (+236.6%), France (+156.7%) and Italy (+108.9%); all boosted by exceptional growth in sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars at the end of the year.