Electric vehicle registrations in Europe gained 57.4% in the first quarter of this year, however these still only comprised just 4.3% of total vehicle registrations in the region, Reuters reported. The surge in demand for zero-emissions vehicles was attributed to new, tougher anti-pollution laws in Europe, though overall sales of passenger cars fell by 52.9% in the first quarter.

The drop in overall demand has been attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen the closure of many showrooms and greatly reduced vehicle sales as a result, said the ACEA auto association according to Reuters. In terms of vehicle choice, economic recession and plunging consumer confidence could make it more difficult for car owners to embrace change from conventionally-fuelled vehicles, said analysts.

Of the 3,054,703 new vehicles registered in Europe for the first quarter of the year, 52% were petrol-powered units and 28% were diesels, according to ACEA data. Showrooms in Germany have been open since late April, however demand is severely reduced, leading to unusually high levels of inventory during was has typically been the strongest sales period in the year, said German dealership association ZDK.

A lack of charging infrastructure has been cited as a key obstacle to EV growth in European markets

Demand has dropped by ‘at least’ 50% compared to a year earlier, according to more than half of the 1,357 dealers polled by ZDK. Selling electric vehicles will be more difficult due to the backlog of internal combustion-engined cars, the dealers association said. “There are between 750,000 to one million unsold cars sitting in German dealerships, (and) the vast majority of them are conventional petrol and diesel cars,” said ZDK spokesman Ulrich Koester.

Sales of electric vehicles in the European Union, United Kingdom and countries in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) totalled 130,297 units in the first three months of this year, said the ACEA. New EV registrations in Germany gained 63.3%, while France saw a jump of 145.6%. On the other hand, sales of electric vehicles in Norway dropped by 12.4%, the report said.

European Union lawmakers in December 2018 mandated a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions between 2007 and 2021 for automakers, and then by a further 37.5% by 2030, or face fines. This means a corporate fleet average of 95 g/km of CO2 emissions by 2021, Reuters wrote.

BMW is increasing production of EV powertrain components due to growing demand

Based on fleet average CO2 emissions levels of 120.4 g/km for 2018 – the final year for which statistics were available – automakers would need to sell more than 2.5 million additional electric vehicles, or an increase of 1,280% by 2021, according to a forecast by PA Consulting analysts.

This is an uphill climb to say the least, as a lack of charging infrastructure will continue to inhibit sales of EVs, which will not overtake sales of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles in the five largest Western European markets until 2030, according to forecasters at LMC Automotive.

The Volkswagen ID.3 is the German automaker’s first fully electric vehicle, for which production commenced in November at the carmaker’s facility in Zwickau, Germany and has recently been estimated for a sales roll-out next year. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to roll out 12 electrified models by 2021, as part of of its investment for new models and powertrains, and BMW is ramping up production of EV powertrain components due to growing demand for electrified models.