In the first quarter of 2021, hybrid electric vehicles made up 18.4% of total passenger car sales in the EU, almost doubling their market share in a year. Demand for electrically chargeable cars also increased during these three months: battery electric vehicles made up 5.7% of all new cars, while plug-in hybrids accounted for 8.2% of EU registrations. Sales of traditional fossil-fuel cars continued to decrease in the European Union, although petrol and diesel still made up 65.4% of the car market.
From January to March 2021, diesel volumes fell 20.1% compared to a year ago to reach 593,559 cars sold across the European Union. Diesel now holds a market share of 23.2%, down from 29.9% in the first quarter of 2020. Most EU markets posted double-digit declines in this segment, including three of the four major ones: Germany (-29.4%), Spain (-28.3%) and France (-11.1%), reads the recent data of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
Similarly, demand for petrol cars continued its downward trend, with sales decreasing by 16.9% from 1.3 million units sold in Q1 2020 to 1.1 million so far this year. As a result, petrol’s share of the EU car market shrank from 52.3% in the first quarter of 2020 to 42.2% during the same period in 2021. With the exception of France (+8.3%), registrations of petrol cars fell in all major EU markets during the three-month period: Germany (-30.0%), Spain (-25.7%) and Italy (-4.8%).
During the first quarter of the year, registrations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the EU increased by 59.1% to reach 146,185 cars, with demand still benefiting from government stimuli for zero-emission vehicles. This growth was spurred by big gains in key EU markets, most notably in Germany (+149.0%) and Italy (+145.6%). By contrast, demand for battery electric cars declined in Spain (-12.6%) from January to March.
Registrations of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) jumped by 175.0%, totaling 208,389 units. One of the drivers of this growth was Italy, where 16,103 plug-in cars were registered in the first quarter – a year-on-year increase of 445.7%. The EU’s three other major markets also saw two-fold, or even three-fold, gains in the PHEV segment so far this year: Germany (+195.4%), France (+231.4%) and Spain (+116.1%).
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) remained the largest volume category of alternatively-powered passenger cars in the EU, with 469,784 units registered from January to March 2021 (an increase of 101.6% compared to the same period last year). Registrations of hybrids rose nearly everywhere in the region, including Italy (+246.8%), France (+135.0%), Germany (+60.5%) and Spain (+39.4%).
Demand for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the European Union declined by 10.1% to 14,300 units during the first quarter, despite registrations increasing by 24.5% in Italy (the largest EU market for these vehicles). Sales of LPG-fuelled cars, on the other hand, almost doubled (+92.7%) to reach 46,037 units, boosted by remarkable gains in France (+1,748.6%; now the second largest EU market for LPG cars) and Italy (+23.9%), which accounted for more than half of total LPG sales.