Commission stands firm on electric vehicle mandate

A clean vehicle sales mandate for Europe is still on track to be part of the forthcoming European Commission proposal on decarbonising cars, it has been confirmed. ‘There can be a mandate ... an incentive for zero and low emissions cars,’ the head of the climate directorate, Jos Delbeke told a recent T&E conference on cutting car CO2 emissions and electrifying the car fleet.

The news is another boost for electric carmakers, grid operators and manufacturers of charging points as they seek greater investment certainty in the proposal for a new EU car CO2 regulation, due out in November. Last week China confirmed details of its clean vehicle quota, requiring 10% of carmakers’ annual vehicle production or imports to be fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2019 and 12% in 2020. As China’s target is based on a credit structure, this would translate into 4-5% plug-in vehicle sales in 2020.

Back in Europe the pressure is on to boost electric vehicle sales. The EU needs to slash its car CO2 emissions at rate of 9% a year to meet its 2030 climate targets, the ICCT’s Peter Mock told the T&E conference. To achieve greater electric sales, government must lead with a zero-emissions sales mandate, said Dan Sperling of the Californian Air Resource Board. California’s mandate sent a strong signal to automakers while providing them with regulatory certainty, he added.

China’s EV mandate, announced last week, is part of an effort to reach 20% EV sales, or 7 million vehicles, in 2025, Yunshi Wang of the China Center for Energy and Transportation, UC Davis, told the event. The Chinese policy is motivated by national security, industrial policy and cleaning up smog.

Right now most battery production is currently concentrated in southeast Asia, according to Colin McKerracher of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The revolution in battery development is driving prices down significantly every year – 22% in 2016 alone. But two European cell manufacturing plants have already been announced and the conference also heard from Northvolt, which is planning a lithium ion cell plant in Sweden.

‘Why Europe should have zero-emission vehicle mandate?’ asked Margo Oge, who set up the US EPA testing programme that caught Volkswagen cheating, rhetorically. ‘In California the mandate has helped cut emissions and spur innovation.’

The Dieselgate scandal and Europe’s air pollution crisis is now leading to a collapse in diesel sales around Europe, while ‘the car-industry dream of selling diesels around the world is dead,’ said T&E’s Greg Archer. They killed it.’

However, European carmakers are deliberately slowly selling electric vehicles through a poor choice of models, a lack of availability in showrooms, and tiny marketing budgets, a new T&E report found. There are just 20 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on sale in Europe compared to 417 conventionally fuelled models (petrol and diesel), according to the research. Furthermore many of these models are simply not available for sale in showrooms while others have long waiting times due to a lack of manufacturing capacity, such as the Hyundai Ioniq and BMW i3.

Manufacturers are barely even trying to sell vehicles, their tiny marketing expenditure shows. Data from marketing analytics specialists Ebiquity analysed by T&E found that, on average, across Germany, France, UK, Spain, Italy and Norway only 2.1% of carmakers’ marketing budget was spent on zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and 1.6% on plug-in hybrid models.

The result of these trends is carmakers failing to hit their own EV sales targets. T&E’s clean vehicles and e-mobility officer, Julia Hildermeier, said: ‘Most carmakers are failing to meet their own targets for electric vehicle sales because they are making little effort to do so. Instead they blame governments for a lack of incentives and recharging points. The reality is that if carmakers provided more choice, and marketed and sold the vehicles more aggressively, they could meet their own goals and clean up the emissions. European carmakers should put their money where their mouth is and start focusing on clean cars rather than resurrecting the market for obsolete dirty diesel cars.’