A few days ago, the Financial Times presented a somewhat historic statistic: for the first time, sales of electric cars (not including hybrids) have overtaken those of diesel cars.
Registrations of new “electrified” vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric cars combined, overtook diesel the first time in September 2020, but this is the first time that battery-electric models have sold more than diesels, the report says.
As of December 2021, more than a fifth of new cars sold in 18 European markets were fully electric, while diesel cars (including diesel hybrids) accounted for less than 19% of sales, according to the report, which is based on data collected by the leading newspaper and independent automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt.
It is a historic event
Diesel has been the default, almost obvious, choice for European car buyers for decades. As an example, sales of diesel vehicles until 2015 accounted for more than half of all new cars in the European Union.
Diesel has long been popular in Europe because of tax policies that made diesel fuel cheaper than petrol. Diesel vehicles are generally more fuel-efficient than petrol cars, but produce more harmful pollution.
The decline of diesel began in 2015 after Volkswagen admitted to selling millions of diesel cars equipped with software that produced artificially low emissions during official tests. The illegal software made the vehicles look much cleaner than they were.
The scandal has drawn attention to the pollution caused by diesel cars, blamed for tens of thousands of premature deaths. Cities like Hamburg and Berlin have banned diesel cars from certain districts, while the European Union has tightened its rules on vehicle pollution.
What does the data say?
Regulations have encouraged car manufacturers to develop electric vehicles, which produce no tailpipe emissions, to comply. To be fair, petrol-powered vehicles are still the most popular, accounting for 40 per cent of new cars, but according to many experts their long-term decline is almost certain.
Figures for December 2021 illustrate how electric vehicles are rapidly becoming mainstream across the continent. Government incentives have made electric vehicles more affordable, the variety of electric cars to choose from has grown and buyers have become more aware of the environmental cost of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.
The growth of electric vehicles has been all the more remarkable considering that the global car market is in crisis. Sales of all new cars in the European Union fell by more than 20% in November as a shortage of semiconductors stifled production, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
And in Italy? According to data from Motus-E, the number of recharging stations installed in our country will grow by 35% by 2021, while the number of electric cars registered will increase by 128%. In the hope that the government will continue its successful policy of incentives, we can only wish for an equally electric 2022.