Electric-car sales are surging in Europe, but only in richer countries, recent analyses have shown.
The coronavirus pandemic has greatly slowed sales of gasoline and diesel cars, but it hasn't had the same effect on electric cars, according to a Politico report.
Data from the ACEA industry lobbying group showed overall car sales in Europe dropping 38% in the first half of this year. Electric cars, as part of that, also dropped, but they accounted for 8% of sales—double last year's rate.
That's not the case so far in the United States. The quarterly update from the California New Car Dealers Association—normally a great preliminary indicator for American green-vehicle trends—shows that EVs have increased market share slightly, from 5.1% in all of 2019 to 5.8% for 2020 through June. But that puts the actual number of EV sales well behind 2019.
That data showed second-quarter new Tesla registrations in California down nearly half from the same period in 2019.
While European EV sales appear robust, the surge is limited to richer countries.
2021 Mercedes-Benz EQC
In the first three months of this year, 98% of European EV sales were in the 14 richest European Union countries, plus non-members United Kingdom and Norway, according to Politico. Strong electric-car sales are nothing new in Norway, thanks to aggressive government incentives and a receptive populous.
While 26 of 27 EU member nations have some form of EV incentive program in place, some of the richer countries, such as France and Germany, have made electric cars a centerpiece of stimulus programs meant to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic. Not every country has undertaken such a stimulus program, and richer countries are also more likely to have money to invest in charging infrastructure, and consumers looking to buy new cars.
This is not a new problem created by the pandemic. The ACEA noted last year that the poorest EU nations also ranked lowest in EV sales, but it's become even more pronounced this year.
The European Commission—the EU's governing body—is reportedly looking into solutions. One idea being discussed is for the EU to match national purchase incentives as part of a coronavirus relief program, according to Politico.
A comparable U.S. program hinges on the upcoming presidential election. President Donald Trump has shown disdain for EV incentives, but Democratic nominee Joe Biden has proposed broadening the current federal tax credit and adding a Cash for Clunkers-style program.
Are there lessons from Europe regarding U.S. EV adoption? Could California, and the states that follow its emissions rules, and the rest of the country diverge yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.