As more automakers expand their lineup of plug-in hybrids, it’s likely that sales of plug-ins will soon exceed that of full-electric vehicles in Europe. In 2014, there were more deliveries of the full-electric units than plug-ins. Industry association ACEA said that last year, 58,244 battery-powered vehicles were sold in the EU and EFTA markets, standing for a 73% increase.
Meanwhile, the volume for plug-ins and extended-range vehicles increased by 26% to 39,547 units. The best-selling EV in 2014 in Europe was the Nissan Leaf, with a 38% increase from the year before to 15,134 units, according to a JATO Dynamics report.
The top-selling plug-in hybrid in the region was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV with a 141% increase in sales to 19,855 units. Norway was the biggest market for EVs last year, with a 130% increase in sales to 18,090. Coming in second is France with a 20% increase to 10,561 units sold.
Germany is in third place with a 41% increase in sales to 8,522. UK is fourth with a 173% increase to 7,416 units. The largest market for plug-in hybrids in 2014 is the Netherlands with 9,938 sold – marking a sudden decrease from the 19,876 units sold in 2013.
This decrease is the result of the Dutch government’s move to cut tax incentives. New incentives helped the UK, which came in second place with sales increasing from 1,114 to 7,945 units. Third place is Germany, which reported an increase in sales from 1,665 to 4,596.
The No. 4 market is Poland, with a sales increase from 1,869 to 3,887. But then, plug-in sales are expected to overtake EV sales amid plans by automakers to launch more models with the fuel-saving drivetrain, which can be mated with a gasoline or a diesel engine.
The distances that the plug-in hybrids can be driven are comparable to those for conventional fuel-powered cars; however, they could be driven for short distances with zero emissions on only electric power. This makes it practical in city centers.
Presently, German automakers build 10 out of the 17 plug-in hybrids on sale in Europe. Plug-ins have been chosen by Volkswagen Group, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as a strategic response to comply with the more stringent EU CO2 emissions regulations over the next decade.
An aggressive plug-in strategy is also in play in Volvo, which seeks to sell variants with the drivetrain on all model lines. Ben Scott, senior analyst at IHS Automotive, said that global plug-in hybrid production is likely to overtake that of electric vehicles by 2015 or 2016.
According to IHS, there will be 1.35 million global plug-in hybrids produced by 2020. It’s on track to double over the next five years to 2.7 million. To put it in perspective, this will make up just 2% of all light vehicles built worldwide. IHS predicts further that in 2020, global sales of battery-electric cars will fall below 1 million.