2011 was to have been the Year of the Electric car in Europe, but sales were so slow as to be barely measurable. The combination of severe economic downturn and less than compelling prices and performance means that you can discount a sales surge in 2012.
European newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID) said that despite meaty government subsidies, electric cars managed a market share of 0.09 per cent in Western Europe last year, with France leading the way with 2,630, Germany a close second with 2,154 and socialist Norway third with 2,038. Britain managed four figure sales with just over 1,000, while Greece in last place failed to trouble the scorers with zero.
AID figures show the total was 11,563 in Western Europe, with the biggest selling electric car the battery-only Mitsubishi MiEV, followed by the Peugeot iON and Citroen C-Zero, which are just rebadged versions of the same Mitsubishi. France gives a subsidy of $6,500 to electric car buyers, a little less than the U.S. one, and is spending money on nationwide charging points.
This year, Renault launches its Fluence Z.E. battery-only car, and when you look at the price of this little car – $27,300 after the subsidy and not including the battery which costs $107 a month to rent, dealers are unlikely to be fighting off hoards of would-be buyers.
According to AID, most 2011 sales in France were likely to have been to businesses, utilities and government agencies. Few individuals would have opened up their wallets.
“The vast majority (of sales) went for business use, and all those with a vested interest in the electric vehicle market. That’s chiefly the carmakers and their dealers, major systems suppliers, and of course the electricity generating utilities themselves,” AID said.
France is going to be the main place to see electric cars in action because of an electric car hire scheme. Called “Autolib” in Paris and “Bluecar” across the country, this initiative expects to operate up to 5,000 Bollore cars by the end of next year.
But don’t expect a rush for battery-only electric cars in Europe from private buyers until their prices halve and their performance doubles.