Are electric cars only for the wealthy?

Almost three on 10 cars are electric in Norway- but this may be due to their high income. [Shutterstock]

In Norway, where electric cars make up 29% of the nation’s new cars, per capita GDP is twice the EU’s average. But China is the largest electric driver in the world. EURACTIV’s partner Italia Oggi reports.

Electric cars are a thing for the wealthy, suggests a report by ACEA, the association representing European car manufacturers.

Norway tops the list of e-car drivers, with 29% (29 electric vehicles sold out of every 100 new cars). But it has a GDP per capita rate of €64,000 – twice the EU’s average. The Netherlands comes second, with only 6% and €40,900. Sweden, with €46,600 per person, makes the podium with a mere 3,6% electric car rate.

Switzerland is fourth with only 2%, despite a per capita wealth superior to Norway’s, followed by Belgium (1,7%).

Six countries (France, Germany, UK, Austria, Finland, Portugal) have an e-car ownership rate between 0,5 and 1,5%, while the remaining EU countries are close to zero.

The podium is shared by the four wealthiest countries in the old continent – although the causal link between wealth and electric car ownership is far from linear.

Car manufacturers explained that new car registrations for electric vehicles only pass 1% n countries where per capita GDP is above €30,000. Conversely, where GDP per capita is below €17,000 (including central and Eastern Europe), electric cars are almost non-existent.

The sales of electric cars on a global scale have risen sharply thanks to China, which is the top global buyer of e-cars. Norway and Switzerland have shown an appetite for clean vehicles – with a 42,6% rise in electric car sales in the first half of 2017.

Germany has also contributed to this trend, by increasing sales of e-cars by 134%.

France (+46%) and the UK (+9,9%) don’t show the same interest.

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Yet the number of pure electric (and not hybrid) vehicles remains low, despite a Europe-wide rise of 1,2% in the first semester and ranging widely across countries.

A factor which can positively impact the e-car ownership rate is the incentive schemes promoted in different countries – but again, this reflects the gross wealth in the country itself.

In Norway, those who buy electric vehicles do not pay import duties, can drive in bus lanes and do not pay tolls.

Such schemes have raised discussions of a “Tesla tax”. In the US, this is already happening.

Yet Norwegian incentives are not sufficient to influence the uptake of electric vehicles in other EU countries, according to ACEA, because the per capita wealth is lower elsewhere.

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