Amping It Up

European EV sales are on the rise, but the internal combustion hegemony remains for now at least, unassailable. 

(c) Tesla

The electric age is just around the corner, just as it has been for some time now. Despite the fact that it patently is the legislative-default future direction of travel, and that regardless of whether we are early, late, enthusiastic or reluctant adopters (or should that be adaptors?) of the automotive EV, we’re getting them anyway. But not quite yet.

Over the first six months of 2019, sales of dedicated electric cars have been on the rise, as one might expect, illustrating (it is said), greater acceptance from customers than the plug-in hybrid model currently favoured by most of the auto industry, at least until they can place their electrified ducks in a row. (A clumsy and frankly dangerous metaphor, for which I apologise).

But is not my intent today to examine the rights, wrongs, if, buts or maybes surrounding the forthcoming EV revolution, there are simply too many variables and unknowns for that to amount to anything illuminating or informative. Opinions (like so much else nowadays) differ and tend to be strongly held – on either side of the argument.

But tracking the European sales figures for the mainstream EV offerings did offer a few nuggets of insight, which may be of interest on this late August Friday.

What can be said without doubt is that for now at least, the internal combustion engine remains the overwhelmingly favoured choice of the European consumer. Because viewing the data, compiled by, one must dip well into the sales charts before any electrified offering appears.

Leading the charge, to the mainstream industry’s chagrin no doubt is Tesla’s much anticipated Model 3 saloon, now on sale across Europe. Entering the charts at number 78, it has posted a very strong sales performance for the year so far with 37,161 registrations to June 30. Now while its clear that there has been a good deal of pent up demand for this car, it does suggest that a decent-sized market is there if the product is deemed right.

(c) pushevs

Further down at number 119, is the once-best selling Euro EV, Renault’s Zoe. In the year to June, 23,736 left Filns to find new owners, a boost of 40.3% over the same period last year. This is a particularly impressive performance for a model which has been replaced by a new version with a stronger 52 Kwh battery and a putative WLTP range of 242 miles (It’s all about the range, darlings), but has yet to be put on sale. (Relatively) affordable, compact and to these eyes attractive, the Zoe shows it can be done without scaring the horses.

Since Hyundai’s Ioniq is available with three different modes of propulsion (series hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full EV), it’s questionable as to how relevant it is in this assessment. Nevertheless it comes in at 141th place, with sales of 17,284 to June, a modest 8.6% rise over 2018. As a vehicle which appears to telegraph its worthy credentials in a sub-Prius manner, the Hyundai’s appeal is likely to be about as limited, to those outside the private hire trade at least.

Image: Innovation and Tech Today

BMW’s i3 seems to be enjoying something of a second wind following its minor facelift and the adoption of a more powerful (42.2 Kwh) battery pack, which has clearly made the Vierzylinder’s carbon fibre groundbreaker a more compelling proposition. In 147th place, 15,876 i3’s were delivered to customers over the first six months of the year, a leap of 40.2%. Steins must be being raised at the FIZ.

Nissan introduced a new-generation Leaf last year, clothed in a shape a good deal less ‘other’ than its predecessor. But has the Japanese carmaker stumbled into the chasm that separates normality and dowdiness, because while the new model won’t shock, it doesn’t particularly awe either. Currently placed at 148, 15,710 broached European landfall to June, down 10.2% – a disappointing performance for a still new model. Supply issues, or a lack of customer engagement, one is compelled to wonder? Certainly, if Renault can design an attractive electric car, what’s stopping Nissan?

(c) nissannews

On the subject of attractive electric cars, Jaguar’s award-winning I-Pace, while posting a rise in sales of 2470%, can only manage 196th place, with 6,477 delivered to end-June. While this does suggest that the supply issues which plagued the model initially seem to be resolved, it is hardly setting the charts alight. But while these are hardly stellar numbers for Jaguar, they do represent the main success story for the beleaguered leaping cat of late, usefully outselling its combustion-engined saloon siblings for example.

Audi are new entrants to the EV party, their e-Tron crossover having become available for purchase in the early part of the year. It nips Jaguar’s kitten heels at 199th place, with 6,364 sold to half-year-end, which on the face of things does suggest that these might currently be optimum volumes at this particular price point. Undoubtedly this is how the denizens of Gaydon would choose to view matters at least.

Certainly so if one considers the sales performance for Tesla’s more mature offerings. Currently at number 229 lies the 7-year old Model S saloon, with 4,370 new owners for the first half-year, a fall of 46.3% over Jan-Jun 2018, while the Model X crossover has if anything fared worse, at 237 in the rankings with 3,667 sold, a drop of 30.0%.

(c) Tesla

This makes for interesting reading in the light of the Model 3’s availability and uptake. Size may be an issue in Europe – we know that price certainly is. Perhaps the Model 3 is closer to European customer’s needs, or has the appeal of the larger models faded? Certainly, as an EV specialist, Tesla has little to fall back on, should the model 3 also fall flat once the initial rush abates.

There are of course other model lines which offer an electrified variant; Smart has its EV Fortwo, VW at least theoretically have an e-Golf available for purchase while Hyundai also offers the unlovely Kona in fully electrified form. But since these appear to be lumped together with their combustion equivalents they don’t figure in this assessment.

(c) performancedrive

Meanwhile the industry (and potential customers alike) await the imminent availability of Mercedes’ EQ model, the soon to be launched Porsche Taycan, (believed to be a potential, if very expensive gamechanger when it goes on sale next year) and VW’s Golf-sized I.D. offering, which could also prove to be one of the more affordable variety.

What little can be gleaned from all this is that EV sales will continue to grow – how could they not – but do seem likely to remain a strictly narrow choice for some time yet. It certainly currently seems difficult to envisage how legislators can shift buyers away from IC engines without beating them with sticks.

Carmakers themselves must also work to shift perceptions, which they won’t do until they have something compelling to sell. But until the market indicators point towards more widespread adoption, they remain somewhat ambivalent. Catch 22. So until the elastic snaps, the European EV remains likely to stay the domain of an affluent minority.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

20 thoughts on “Amping It Up”

  1. I’m starting to see a few iPaces around these parts now and I saw my first two Model 3s only this week. I’m seriously considering the new Zoe as my next car. I still don’t understand why Ford won’t sell me an electric Fiesta.

  2. I live in a part of the world where electric cars are relatively common – Switzerland was very keen in adopting Teslas from the beginning, and there is hardly a day where I don’t meet at least three or four of them on the streets. I don’t know if our figures are included in Eóin’s numbers, i.e. if they are European or EU numbers.
    Among the many Teslas (even Model 3 is quite a common sight now), the odd iPace also figures from time to time, but it’s still rare. I wonder if it’s going to catch up. Zoes are almost as common as Clios, it seems to me, but as you mention, the new Leaf is either too conventional looking for me to notice, or it’s actually not selling. Personally, I see it as a big step back. The former model might not have been to everyone’s taste, but it looked attractive to me and sent a message of being something else, completely unaggressive, unadorned, and with unusual volumes. The new one is just frumpy and looks like a Pulsar after an accident.

    1. I’ve always believed in the wisdom of being a late adopter of new technologies and am happy to leave other, more pioneering souls to be the “crash test dummies” for these technologies. Consequently, I have avoided being drawn down numerous blind alleys over the years, including Betamax, Blu-Ray, Palm Pilot and 3-D TV. Likewise in matters automotive, so I’m still some way from buying our first electric car.

      There is one glaring deficiency in the rollout of EVs, the lack of an industry standard “supercharger” network along the lines of Tesla’s proprietary offering. I could certainly live with the range of the best current generation EVs, but I want to be assured of immediate access to a fast charging point exactly when and where I need it. When such points are as widespread as filling stations, that’s when I’ll make the switch. I do realise that there’s a “chicken and egg” situation here: the charging network will probably only grow in proportion to the demand from EV drivers, unless government steps in and subsidises the rollout to boost EV acceptance and sales.

    2. Just to clarify, Simon, Carsalesbase’s figures cover what is deemed the entire European market area, not just the EU member states. This would therefore include Switzerland.

    3. Thanks for the clarification, Eóin.

      I looked a bit into the Swiss numbers, and the ranking among the EVs is astonishingly similar to the whole European market, with few exceptions: The Leaf falls far behind, with sales figures between the Audi Étron and the Tesla S. It represents about 1.5% of the European sales, while for most others it’s between 3% and 5%. The Tesla 3 is even at 6.4% and comes in fourth on the Swiss market, right behind the Golf, and very slightly ahead of the Mercedes A-class. Therefore it’s not surprising that it already has a visible presence on our roads.

  3. The slowdown in Leaf sales must surely be down to the change in philosophy with the Mk2. Leaf Mk1 was a noticeably different car and buyers who wanted to trumpet their EV credentials – and many do – could make a statement by driving what was obviously an electric car. With Leaf Mk2, not so much. The new Leaf may be a better car in every way but it looks like a bigger Micra.
    The big issue with EVs is still the price. The Kona EV which despite Éoin’s misgivings is very much the electric du jour, costs about €37,000 in Ireland. The basic petrol Kona costs about €21,000 so about €16,000 less. It’s a much more basic car but there’s no basic EV to compare it with. But here’s the catch. That €37,000 is after incentives of €10,000. Take away these and you’d be paying €26,000 to have to Kona powered by electrons. However laudable that may be, only the truly committed to the cause are going to contemplate that.

  4. In my country (the Netherlands) EV’s are a common sight. Main reason here is the purchase tax on new cars that is based on carbon dioxide emission of a vehicle and even more importantly the tax benefits of company car owners.

    To illustrate this one only needs to look compare the car sales of December 2018 to January 2019. The most sold car in December was the I-pace with 2,621 vehicles sold. For the first time in history a Jaguar model was the most popular car sold in the Netherlands, if only for one month. Only 30 other Jaguar models sold in the same month. Total Jaguar sales of 2018 were 4,626 cars. In fact Jaguar increased production of the I-pace just to meet the demand of the Dutch market.

    In January however only 15 I-paces found a new owner. They still benefit hugely from the purchase tax, but less from tax benefits, even though it still is a lot cheaper to own an EV as a company car compared to one with an ICE.

    And of course the EV fanboys and -girls are screaming in horror about this. I wish products sold on the merit of their technical properties rather than tax reasons. For the general car buying public, at least in my country, EV’s are too expansive and offer too little if any advantage over their ICE-powered opponents.

    The only way the general car buying will change to EV’s is if their technology and the necessary infrastructure improve and prices come down or if ICE-powered vehicles are banned. Given the fact that in the Netherlands one isn’t allowed to sell new ICE-powered cars as of 2030, it’s clear that the government isn’t expecting technology and consumer preference to change fast enough.

  5. EV sales seem to have ramped up quite a bit here in NZ, albeit from a low base, but not necessarily from NZ new sales. There’s a large second hand import scene here, and the previous generation Leaf is quite popular. Most BMW i3s on the road are Japanese imports, and most Zoes are UK imports. There are a few Teslas around, but they’re quite pricey. New electric and plugin-hybrids are still significantly more expensive than either series hybrid or convention fuelled vehicles.

    The other variant I’ve seen a few of (hard to spot, since it’s really only badging and blue highlights that give it away) is the Nissan Note e-power. That uses a conventional petrol engine to premanently drive an electric motor.

    Saw a few Leafs in the Cook Islands this year – ideal since it’s only 32km round the outer ring road!

  6. A chap I know is working for the company with the largest fleet of Teslas worldwide at around fifty of them. He is currently running a Skoda Superb with a soon to expire corporate leasing contract and his consideration was to replace the Skoda with a Tesla. He managed to borrow a Tesla from one of his colleagues for about a week or so to test it in everyday use. His highlight was a 150 km trip to his parents-in-law on which he drove the Tesla like he drives the Skoda – 130 kph wherever possible and sometimes faster. At the end of the trip the Tesla had a residual range of ten kilometres which proved it to be impractical as everyday transport for him and his family.
    Any battery powered car is out of consideration as soon as any one of the factors payload, speed, range or time to restore the range (or, better, the relation between time ready for uninhibited use to time ready for unavailability or restricted use) is important.
    Even if there are dozens of charging stations every hundred metres the miserable range at anything above snail’s pace and the inacceptable long time to restore said ridiculous range make BEVs useless.
    And of course people wiling to organise their private life around the recharging needs of their car want to show their horse hair shirt to the world.

    1. I wonder what you have to do to bring a Tesla down to a 160 km range. But then there are also people who will use 16 litres with the same car I drive with 9 or 10. And very often they’re not faster on average than I am.

    2. I think you’ve been sold a pup with this story Dave. Or maybe you’re trying to sell one of your own…

      A Tesla (you don’t say which model) with even the smallest battery and running even in colder temperstures will typically achieve at least 200 miles real world range from a 90-95 % charged battery – even if cruising at the speeds you mention.

      So, a 150 km drive (93 miles in old money) means that there should be at least 100 miles remaining at arrival.

      Even driving at higher speeds will in no way account for a residual range of a few miles.

      There’s a lot of nonsense written about EVs in general (and Tesla in particular), mostly by people who’ve never driven one. To an extent, I get that. Like any other disruptive new widget, EVs threaten long held beliefs and financial certainties.

      But I drive a Tesla. One with over 300 miles of real world range. I drive nearly 30,000 miles a year in it. Range, range anxiety and charging are non-issues. I’m not a Tesla fanboy in any way. I’m cool, objective and rational, and I’m aware of their faults. I can assure you however that a lack of range is not one of these faults.

      Back to your story…maybe this chap set off on his journey with a battery at less than 25% charge?

    3. The car in question was a Model S 85 and the experiment was on a hot summer day with the air con switched to full power because there was a two year old in the back and the drive was from Frankfurt to Heilbronn and keeping up with traffic was a must.
      For me the numbers sound plausible.
      There has to be a reason why these cars are regularly driven as a moving obstacle. Rarely do you see a Tesla driven faster than 80 kph and they mostly go with barely detectable acceleration and I’m sure this is because anything faster is detrimental to the range.
      There has to be a reason why Tesla no longer have the range calculator on their website. When they had it its calculation span was restricted from 80 to 120 kph and even then the loss in range at the upper end of the scale was impressive. For a speed of 100 kph it calculated half the range my car has driven flat out – and that’s before I turn on the air condition or enjoy a proper heater in winter and it does not consider the fact that it takes me ten minutes or less to restore the full range. That pretty much sums up the fundamental BEV problem.

  7. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly EVs are adopted. Looks like a wholesale change is coming all right and I am neither pro nor anti on the matter as a whole. With 70% of Canadian electricity produced by hydropower, and more than 20% additionally locally from wind and tidal power, EVs are indeed greenish. Not that huge dams affecting climate, geography and wildlife over hundreds if not thousands of square miles areas are totally benign, either.

    However, incentives here are small for buying EVs, about 3K euros max, and the prices high because of those darn batteries. Winter range shortening and lack of capacity to also continuously melt ice from windscreens thrown up by other vehicles at highway speeds in slushy but below zero degree weather, look like a hindrance to adoption. Even full bore defrost plus electric wiper windscreen heat at the bottom of the wiper arc in a petrol car can sometimes be quite iffy in the visibility stakes in those windchill conditions at only 40 mph, I can tell you from experience. Can be a bit heart-in-mouth. And then your tootsies freeze! Looks like mostly city and suburban use to me for EVs here, but in Europe with high population density, likely no problem for those longer trips.

    Anyway, voted for generally warm feet two days ago, and got a new Mazda6 turbo after the auto trans in my Subaru Legacy GT turbo decided to chuck it in after almost 12 years of rather happy motoring. No, not Mazda soul-red, thanks all the same. Titanium Mica to match the wheels. 28.4K euros equivalent incl VAT at 15% on the road minus the almost nothing 1.7K euro equivalent I got for my broken Legacy. Amazingly small-feeling on the road considering its size, but at least it has some snort unlike the unprepossessing to drive new Mazda3! We’ll see how it goes, but it made me chortle after the salesperson was finally ditched and I could give it a go. Still haven’t exceeded 3500 rpm being new, but revs aren’t its forte anyway. Low and midrange torque are. With 310 lbf-ft (420 Nm) at 2ooo rpm which is 110 km/h in top, and with 2.5 litre capacity and only 250 hp on four star at max whack, it’s not being pumped up like a balloon on steroids to make it go. Here’s hoping it’ll be nice and dependable. It’s rather nicely mechanical in feel for an automatic, yet the electric steering and tracking are marvellous on the open road, while being just fine on normal two-lane roads.

    I drive less than 6k miles per annum on average in my retired dotage, so unlikely to spew masses of CO2 anyway, even with a lead foot! Probably no EV for me before my ultimate demise.

    1. Bill, enjoy your rides with the new mazda! Is it also a 4WD? And about the Legacy, a 2008 2.0 turbo with the 4 speed transmission I assume, what happened to it? I thought they were pretty solid built! I own a 2004 Forester 2.0 XT, that’s why I am asking! Thanks a lot.

  8. May I suggest that the Leaf’s sales are being hampered by its looks? It really is poorly styled and helps prove that styling can make a difference to sales.

  9. Really interesting to see the article and responses. Anyone in Norway care to comment on Tesla range in cold weather? We have an e-Up! bought second-hand. having the A/C on takes the range down by 25% immediately. However, it has a small cabin and very good A/C so usually the A/C goes on for a few minutes, then gets switched off and range is restored. Not ideal, but an OK adaptation. Here are a few thoughts.

    The whole lifecycle economics are still tough for this relatively new technology. Residual values are uncertain as battery capacity per volume and price improves rapidly. The Zoe has shown the way and the e-Up! and VAG siblings will do the same next month. It is a testament to how quickly the battery technology is improving that the new e-Up! will have a battery pack of the same volume as the original with nearly twice the capacity. Our best range on a warm day is probably up to 90 miles if we dare – in summer we regularly see average consumption of 6 miles per Kw/h on suburban routes that facilitate some regeneration. In winter this can regularly go down to under 4 Kw/h with heater, lights and wipers on. We don’t see nearly enough reference to the power consumption of EVs – this figure would help clarify the Tesla range story above. The range quoted equates to about 1.5 Kw/h consumption, which sounds high even accounting for speed and A/C use – any Tesla owners able to quote their range of consumption figures?

    We knew what we were taking on with the e-Up! as we previously – about 14 years ago – had a Reva G-Wizz which we liked a lot, despite its very obvious limitations. Buying a second-hand e-Up! meant the purchase price was reasonable – it had depreciate well over 50% in under four years so the original owners suffered a lot for their interest in being the first adopters of this particular exemplar. We will suffer a lot less and plan to keep the car for many years, hopefully.

    The Reva had a maximum range on a good day of perhaps 25 miles. Despite this, in the three years we used it we drove it more miles than our second, petrol car – so we know our routines fit well with a limited range EV. Having more chargers and the option of high-speed charging means that the e-Up! not only an exponentially better car (the Reva was technically a quadricycle) but also part of a better ecosystem for EVs.

    Better, but still rubbish. It beggars belief that there is no standardised “drive up and pay” platform for all EV charging points. Even where they are installed in petrol station forecourts in the UK (Shell for example) you can’t charge and pay at the shop as you would with petrol. The user experience of refueling is not only poor – you also experience it more often so it is a double whammy. Aware of that, we opted for short-range, cheap and charge-at-home use. To be our main car I’d look for a stated range of about 240 miles and good weather consumption of say 5 Kw/h – that would hopefully mean a reliable 140 real-world miles in poorest winter conditions. The new 208 might be right in three years’ time when another early adopter has taken a 55% depreciation hit. Although maybe they won’t. It could be that there is an optimal range “plateau” and for most users, paying more for extra range will enter diminishing returns, especially if the infrastructure for charging improves. That could stabilise second hand values and in turn, lower lease costs – as I said, there is an ecosystem here.

    A final point is about drive-train efficiency. It is interesting (to me at least) to see that Hyundai/Kia seem to have the most power-efficient drive-trains at the moment. The logic has been that a 10% improvement in motor and power management management efficiency is cheaper and lighter that adding 10% to battery capacity, so well worth the effort. As battery packs become cheaper and more efficient per volume, we seem to be seeing less efficient drive-trains (i-Pace, for example) – which feels retrograde. Colin Chapman’s great edict, “add lightness”, holds again even in a world where a battery pack weighs in as the same as his entire Seven…

  10. Fascinating to read about real-world driving experiences with EVs. David’s point about lightness is well made, but is there a safety issue where EVs are sharing roads with large and heavy traditional ICE vehicles? In an alternative reality, where there was a separate road network purely for EVs, could designers be really radical with regard to construction and weight? I raise this question because I wonder what personal transportation might look like a century into the future, when ICE vehicles are merely museum exhibits.

  11. Hey David,
    I live in Norway and have driven an e-golf ( first generation) for 4 years (50000km)and a Tesla model S (90D) for the last two years (63000). In Norway electric cars are VAT exempt plus that they escape the (otherwise very heavy) CO2 based tax. So they are still expensive but much cheaper compared to their ICE counterparts. The e-golf for example starts at about the same price as the entry level ICE golf. The Tesla model E is much cheaper than an entry level bmw 330.
    One thing to consider when driving an electric car is that these numbers are measured from 100% to the point that the car has to be towed away. In real life you never want (at least not me) to go bellow 10% of battery (just to be sure) and you only charge up to 100% when you are planing a trip. It is not recommended by any producer and it takes a long time to charge from 95 to 100 ( the battery “takes” electricity slower).
    The e-golf has a real life range of about 110km. (mixed driving 2/3 motorway 130km/hr, 1/3 rural road 70km/hr). At wintertime that goes down to 80-90 km.
    The tesla is obviously different. At wintertime with motorway speeds ( 130mk/hr) you get 300km without sweating ( that is from 95-100% charge you end up with 10-15). Summertime will give you 15-20% more. Driving slower ( say 110km/hr) will increase the range as well.
    I drive 80km everyday, have regular trips of 250-300 km daily and there has never been a problem. Even at 20% I plug it in at home during the night and after 10hrs it is full again.
    We drove all the way down to Greece with 3 children (aged 2, 5 and 7) last year and had no problem whatsoever. Traveling with kids requires frequent stops anyway, so it might as well be next to a supercharger…
    Superchargers are placed at ca 150km distance from each other. It will take 20-30 min to charge from 30 to 80% which again is more than you need. We never needed to charge at two consecutive superchargers ( always made it to the next one).
    The figures Dave mentioned (a range of 150km) might actually be true if his friend drove 200 km /hr as many in Germany did. I just touched these numbers while driving there, I thought it was uncomfortable (and unsafe as far as I could judge myself) to drive so fast but the car used a lot of electricity at those speeds. If you are going to drive around 200km constantly then no electric cars as tehey are evolved today are not a good choice.
    The gamechanger in my opinion is not the fast-charging abilities. Any improvement in charging speed and increased density of fast-chargers is obviously wellcome but the real point is everyday parking. For the majority of drivers (people that do not drive more than 250-300km in a day usually) range for the available cars is more than adequate. If one had simple plugs available at most parking places ( they would not need to give more than 8-10 A) then electric cars would meet many peoples needs. If I did not have the opportunity to charge at home (albeit at slow speed) I would not choose an electric car.
    Otherwise I obviously like the tesla, but I am not an Elon Musk fan. Tesla as a company still has some teething problems (say sufficient service capacity) and some cars have prøven to be a nightmare for their owners (from the stories I hear from the local tesla owners webside) but note that these problems are mundane problems like aircon issues, screen faults, faulty finishing etc etc, never a problem with the driveline.

  12. JATO Dynamics figures quoted by Automotive news late last week provide a little more detail in places – and contradict in others. They place the e-Golf in 5th place with 12,573 sales across Europe over Jan-Jun. The unlovely Hyundai Kona EV comes next in 6th with 11,107 sales, while Audi’s e-Tron outpaces Jaguar in 7th, albeit not by much – (6,572 to 6,417). Kia’s Niro comes in 9th with 5,548, while the top ten is rounded out by Smart’s ForTwo ED, which chalks up 4,627 new owners. Overall, the segment is up 88% over the same period last year, which is pretty impressive. Nevertheless, it remains a tiny subset of the overall market.

    This is the norwegian statistics on cars registered in 2019 so far. I do not know which page you get up first but by swipping to the right you get model spesific statistics. Out of the top 5 only RAV4 is not electric. No2 Golf does not differentiate between e-golf and ICE nut most part of them are electric.
    All in all 39% of new cars were strictly electric.

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