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  • Electric vehicle sales rise but market share still small

    Sales of electric cars are on the rise, but still make up a tiny proportion of the overall car fleet, according to the latest motor industry sales figures.

    The market for electric vehicles went up by 37% in 2014, but it accounted for just 0.6% of overall new car registrations, despite various financial incentives that involve some governments offering several thousand euros in subsidies for buyers of e-cars.

    While there were some surges – 15,000 new electric vehicles were sold in the UK, the best in the EU – there were also falls. The Netherlands experienced a 42% reduction in sales compared with 2013 despite a package of financial incentives. Globally, the world’s best-selling e-car, the Nissan Leaf, sold just 40,000 new models last year, well short of the 250,000 the Japanese company had hoped for.

    T&E said tighter CO2 standards for new cars sold from 2025 would encourage greater investment, which in turn would lead to greater attractiveness of cleaner vehicles.

    T&E director Jos Dings commented: “Europe’s CO2 rules for cars have without doubt been the main driver for carmakers’ investments in clean technology. As a result we see EVs quickly becoming better and more affordable, a trend that the Commission must accelerate through tighter CO2 standards from 2025. Europe’s car industry needs to stay ahead of the US and China in the race to sustainable mobility.”

    Meanwhile, General Motors, America’s biggest seller of cars, has said it is putting its electric Chevrolet Bolt into production, with an anticipated price of $30,000 (€26,400) and a range of 320km. This compares with the Nissan Leaf’s maximum range of around 135km. GM has given no date for the Bolt to come on sale, but industry analysts expect it to arrive around 2017.

    Meanwhile, further evidence has emerged that Apple plans to move into the automotive market. A company which makes electric car batteries is suing the iPhone maker for poaching some of its best researchers. It follows an extensive recruitment drive from carmakers by Apple. It’s unclear whether the consumer electronics giant wants to build electric vehicles to rival another Silicon Vallery firm, Tesla, or produce a self-driving car similar to Google’s research project.

    Despite the financial incentives from governments, the obstacles to electric vehicles taking a bigger share remain the range of the car and the frequency of places to charge it. Tesla, which has 670 charging points in Europe and 1,600 globally, is experimenting with ‘superchargers’ which reduce the charging time. It has been working with supermarkets, on the basis that people can charge their cars while shopping and thus waste very little time.