Electric vehicles sales in France tripled in past two years

Green and digital transition can have a strong transformative effect on the Croatian economy. [Zoran Pajic/Shutterstock]

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars have increased in popularity in France, rising from 2.5% of all vehicles sold in 2019 to 7.5% today. The increase in sales is partly linked to the electric bonuses granted under the country’s recovery plan, dubbed France Relance. EURACTIV France reports.

“There is a greening of the car fleet that is much stronger than anticipated,” the economy and finance ministry told the third France Relance national monitoring committee Monday (19 July).

“The electric bonus has tripled the market share of electric vehicles, which has risen to more than 7% of registrations,” it added.

As part of the post-COVID economic recovery plan, the government has set up a scheme to support the purchase of less polluting vehicles.

The aim of this electric car bonus is to “support households by giving them purchasing power” and to “support a sector that has also suffered from the crisis”, said the ecological transition ministry of Barbara Pompili’s office.

Although the ministry recognises that “the transition of the automotive sector will be long,” it appears to be on the right track for the time being as electric bonuses have increased by 125,000 in 2021 so far, compared to the 117,000 granted in 2020 and 50,000 in 2019.

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Sales of new cars and vans that produce carbon emissions will be banned as of 2035, proposals tabled by the European Commission revealed on Wednesday (14 July), a move which all but guarantees that the era of the internal combustion engine (ICE) is drawing to a close in the EU.

620,000 electrified vehicles in France

“In June 2021, electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for almost 16% of light vehicle registrations. In total, there are more than 620,000 plug-in electrified vehicles on the road in France,” Cécile Goubet, general delegate of the National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility (Avere-France), told EURACTIV.

Goubet also highlighted a “desire on the part of the French to adopt a more environmentally friendly form of mobility.” The “increasingly competitive running costs compared to combustion vehicles” are backed by today’s “richness and variety” of what manufacturers have to offer, she added. The market currently offers 200 different models, compared to the 60 on offer in 2018.

But car manufacturers also have to accelerated their greening efforts, particularly as they face a series of regulations, including Euro VII which provides for stricter regulations on CO2 emissions and pollutants.

Renault, for example, is aiming for its sales in electric vehicles to reach 90% by 2030, while PSA is aiming for its sales in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to reach 70% by 2030.

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Green activists have renewed calls for EU lawmakers to scrap subsidies for plug-in hybrid vehicles following revelations that emissions from hybrids are up to 89% higher than advertised.

Criticism from Green MEPS  

To cope with the growing momentum for electric vehicles, France will ensure “all areas of the motorway network will be equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles by the end of 2022,” Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced on 15 July.

According to Goubet, “the maintenance and location of the charging points remain essential.”

France is one of the best equipped countries in Europe in terms of charging points after the Netherlands as it harbours more than 20% of the bloc’s charging points.

Of France’s €100 billion recovery plan, €30 billion have been earmarked for the ecological transition. On top of that, France will receive €39.4 billion for its recovery from Brussels. Though a minimum of 37% of EU funds must be allocated to the energy transition, France has committed to investing almost half of the funds in the fight against climate change.

But while the France Relance recovery plan seems to be accelerating the ecological transition of the car industry, the Green group in the European Parliament is sceptical about the funds invested in hybrid mobility in some recovery plans, including those of France and Germany.

“These hybrid investments are not in line with the regulation,” the Green group warned. When the batteries of rechargeable hybrid vehicles is empty, the combustion engine takes over, causing CO2 emissions to soar, they added.

The Greens also criticised the nature of these purchase incentives, which they said were “generally short-term consumption measures” without ” a ‘sustainable impact’ as required by the regulation as a necessary condition.”

The Commission’s Fit for 55 package aims for new cars to be emission-free in the EU by 2035 and for the bloc to accelerate the production of electric vehicles to meet that target. Meanwhile, France appears eager to participate in the collective European effort to embrace electric mobility and plug-in hybrids.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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