Last June, the European Commission accepted the European Parliament's proposal whereby all new cars on the European market must be zero emission in order to achieve the road transport goal by 2050: cars with petrol or diesel engines registered before 2035 will in fact be able to continue to operate, but almost all of them will have reached their end of life by the middle of the Century. In order to phase out cars, motorcycles and lorries with a combustion engine from the roads, a crucial step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis, joint institutional, private and infrastructure efforts will be needed. Charging needs to be made ever easier, more readily available and faster, to promote the production of electric cars in favour of petrol or diesel vehicles, and more powerful, lighter and longer-lasting batteries need to be developed.
The road is mapped out, but the challenge has just begun. The latest data on electric car sales show us that Europe has slowed down for the first time, while in other markets (the United States and China, especially) Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are on a steady and frantic rise. According to the report entitled From boom to brake: Is the e-mobility transition stalling? published in October by Transport & Environment, it can be seen that, in the European Union, sales of electric cars (i.e. BEVs only in this case) in the first half of 2022 accounted for about 11% of the total share of new vehicles sold, whereas in the second half of 2021 the percentage was just over 13. The overall trend shows growth, as this percentage value was well below 5 in the first six months of 2019, but the stalemate is concerning, especially given China's simultaneous take-off, where registered full electric cars have increased from 9% to 18% of the total cars sold in a year.
Electric cars produced by Chinese manufacturers are spreading across Europe. Today they count for 5%, but this market segment will increase to between 9% and 18% by 2025, according to T&E forecasts. In Norway, the European country which is at the very cutting-edge when it comes to the electrification of transport (as early as 2020, 75% of new cars registered were electric or hybrid), Chinese makes already account for 12.5% of all full electric cars sold. “At a time when car manufacturers in China and America, driven by targeted and ambitious policies, are rapidly increasing their supply of electric vehicles, European car manufacturers are applying the hand brake, to focus on traditional vehicle sales. This situation - warned Veronica Aneris, Director of Transport & Environment Italy - could have serious consequences not only on the climate, but also on the competitiveness of European industry and jobs on the Continent”. Average emissions from new vehicles fell by 12% in both 2020 and 2021, while in the first part of 2022 the decline was only 2%.
According to the report, it is not so much infrastructure problems or delays and shortages - albeit present - in supply chains that slow growth, but rather the lack of more ambitious targets. Virtually all European car manufacturers are in fact in line with their electric or hybrid car sales target for 2022. The problem is that these targets, either set by the manufacturers themselves or at legislative level, are simply not ambitious enough. “The lack of regulatory incentives is slowing down electric vehicle sales in Europe much more than the supply chain crisis. The current CO2 targets for cars do not sufficiently stimulate European car manufacturers - Aneris also said. The European Union must quickly set the end-of-sale deadline for cars with an internal combustion engine for 2035, strengthen its objectives, which have been weakened by too much flexibility in regulations, and implement an industrial policy that matches Chinese and US trends”. Without regulatory intervention that could decisively stimulate the supply of BEVs by European manufacturers, it is easy to assume that in the coming years, foreign companies will absorb an increasingly important part of the demand in the European Union, with negative environmental, social and economic consequences.