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Great Britain replaces France as Europe’s second largest electric car market

The UK overtook France in the first quarter of the year to become the second largest electric car market in Europe as demand for zero-emission cars increased.

Around 31,800 battery electric cars were sold in the UK in the first three months of the year, compared to 30,500 in France. This emerges from an analysis by the independent automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt.

Electric car sales have grown rapidly since early 2020, partly due to new emissions regulations that require manufacturers to face heavy fines if the average carbon dioxide emissions of their products do not decrease.

According to the industry, battery electronics accounted for 7.5% of sales in Great Britain in the first three months of the year, almost doubling its market share compared to the same period last year.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was the first year European consumers bought more than half a million electric cars. This is expected to double to 1 million sales in 2021, although according to Schmidt’s forecasts, pure electrics will only make up a tenth of the entire European car market by 2024.

With 64,700 units sold in the first quarter, Germany is by far the largest single market for battery electric cars in Europe. This achievement was backed in part by generous subsidies, which the federal government doubled in June to help the auto industry, which is vital to Europe’s largest economy. Other markets are proportionally more advanced than the UK in converting to electric cars. In 2020, Norway became the first country in the world to sell more electric cars than fossil fuel cars thanks to generous subsidies.

Schmidt said: “The UK will likely remain the second largest European BEV (battery electric vehicle) market this year, albeit far behind the market leader Germany, which manufacturers rely on to help them achieve their pan-European goals thanks to the generous incentives there to offer. “

Schmidt added that manufacturers in the UK will have to increase their sales of plug-in vehicles in a “make-or-break year” in order to meet the new post-Brexit emission limits. The rules mirror those of the EU, but if they go alone, automakers cannot compensate UK SUV buyers with more environmentally friendly models sold in other countries.

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There is already evidence that manufacturers are trying to promote lower-emission models in the UK, Schmidt said. In late March, German premium automaker BMW cut the price of its electric i3 to lower the bar on government subsidies.

While sales to UK consumers are expected to grow steadily, drivers are concerned that the UK charging system is not up to the task. A survey of British drivers by YouGov on behalf of CTEK, an electric car charger, found that 78% believe that the charging infrastructure is not yet adequate, compared to 65% in the other European countries surveyed.

The survey also found, in line with other reports, that the relatively higher sticker price for electric cars was the main reason preventing more people from buying. However, prices are expected to fall to keep up with fossil fuel cars as higher demand creates a positive cycle.

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