Fuel Type: Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)

Are EVs as green as they seem?

The last year has been dominated by a single health emergency that brought the world to its knees. But for decades, scientists and campaigners have been warning of another impending crisis. As governments put environmental regulations in place, carmakers are transitioning into clean mobility companies. Spearheading this change, electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) appear poised to take the helm from internal combustion engines (ICEs). But for this handover to work, these electric models must prove to be environmentally advantageous. Autovista Group Daily Brief Journalist Tom Geggus asks, are EVs as green as they seem?

According to the European Commission, passenger cars are responsible for around 12% of total EU CO2 emissions, putting the automotive industry in the green spotlight. A poll of 15 European cities recently revealed nearly two-thirds of urban residents back a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. OEMs and mobility providers are also supporting a faster transition to zero-emission transport. Volvo Cars, Uber and LeasePlan are among a group of companies calling for an end date to new combustion car purchases in Europe no later than 2035. This would leave a large ICE-sized hole for EVs to plug. But considering its entire lifetime, is an electrified vehicle that much cleaner than a petrol or diesel-powered one?

Significantly smaller footprint

Published in March last year, research from the universities of Cambridge, Exeter and Nijmegen showed that in 95% of the world, an electric car has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than one powered by fossil fuels. Dr Florian Knobloch, University of Cambridge fellow, German Federal Ministry policy advisor, and the paper’s lead author, spoke with Autovista Group’s Daily Brief about the findings.

The academic team carried out extensive life-cycle assessments of emissions produced through vehicle use, as well as production and waste processing. ‘When you look at the production stage, it takes significantly more energy and material input due to the battery,’ Dr Knobloch said. But the EV then makes up for this larger burden across its entire lifetime thanks to far lower running emissions.

‘It is a myth that electric cars do increase emissions, even on a lifetime basis,’ he said. ‘In most parts of the world already, today EVs will decrease emissions, even if you factor in everything from production to recycling.’

‘A snowball effect’

When dividing the world into 59 regions, the research revealed that in 53, electric cars are already less emissions-intensive than one powered by petrol or diesel. These regions include Europe, the US and China. In fact, lifetime emissions from EVs were found to be 70% lower than petrol cars in countries like France and Sweden, where large amounts of electricity are generated through renewable and nuclear sources. However, the same cannot be said for counties like Poland, where dependence on coal-fuelled power stations lingers.

But as grids worldwide are rewired with decarbonisation in mind, even these regions will see more reason to go electric. So, as EVs become increasingly efficient, they will outstrip ICEs which have already reached near-peak efficiency. Dr Knobloch points out that even with the inclusion of greener technology like biofuels, there is little chance for the carbon footprint of ICE vehilces to greatly improve.

This transition to electromobility does take time. Confidence in EVs still needs to build up: from the early adopters to the mainstream. ‘Every EV you buy now increases the chance of more EVs being bought in the future,’ Dr Knobloch explained. As consumers are exposed to an increasing number of EVs, a snowball effect will take place with confidence growing alongside adoption, encouraging more people to take the electric leap. The study projects that globally, half of cars on average could be electric by 2050. This would lower global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons annually.

A comparative tool

In Europe, clean-transport campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E), found that electric cars emit on average almost three times less CO2 than their ICE equivalent. Again, this figure considers wider impact, including the sourcing of battery materials, electricity production, and even power-plant construction. To illustrate the difference between the lifetime emissions of EVs and ICEs, T&E created a tool to compare drive types, considering the year of purchase, vehicle type and location, as well as electricity used for battery production.

Lucien Mathieu, manager overseeing road vehicles and e-mobility analysis at T&E, spoke with Autovista Group’s Daily Brief. As the tool’s creator, he explained it aims to combat other bias analysis of electric-car emissions, that might rely on outdated data, particularly given the rapid advance of EV technology. Using the most up-to-date information, T&E’s tool reveals CO2 emissions per kilometre, as well as in tonnes over lifetime.

For example, comparing two medium-sized cars bought in 2020, T&E’s tool reveals the electric car, on average, is responsible for 90 grammes of CO2 per kilometre versus petrol with 253 grammes. Considering tonnes of CO2 over distance driven, the EV’s ‘carbon debt’ from production is paid off quite quickly thanks to its low-usage emissions. This compares starkly to an ICE car, which is far less efficient when converting its fuel into movement.

This canyon between EV and ICE only looks set to grow as battery technology continues to advance, while fossil-fuel cars have already achieved close to their peak efficiency. A T&E study recently calculated that an EV battery uses 30 kilograms of raw materials with recycling, compared to the 17,000 litres of petrol burned by the average car.

‘The valuable minerals mined to make electric-car batteries will be used and reused unlike those of oil,’ said Greg Archer, UK director of T&E. ‘Over its lifetime, an average-engined car would burn through a stack of oil barrels, 25 storeys high, creating about 40 tonnes of CO2 and worsening global warming. In comparison, only 30 kilograms of metals would be lost each time an electric-car battery is recycled – roughly the size of a football.’

This gap will increase as advancements drive down how much lithium is needed to make a battery by half over the next decade. Cobalt will drop by over three-quarters and nickel by around a fifth. So, as EVs develop, T&E plans to keep their tool updated with the latest available evidence, as well as expanding its scope to include plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). But of course, EVs also benefit from technologies developing outside of their own powertrains.

Powering vehicles

At the end of last year, more than 3,500 European power companies, represented through the federation for the European electricity industry, Eurelectric, came out in support of a minimum 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. As more electricity generators and distributors throw their weight behind cleaner-energy solutions, including the use of more renewables, EVs can be expected to become greener.

Speaking with Autovista Group’s Daily Brief, Petar Georgiev, climate and E-mobility lead at Eurelectric, pointed to a larger picture when considering the energy behind EVs. ‘You do have to keep in mind what the actual carbon footprint is in different countries, at different times, and also how it is changing, because for us in the power sector, we clearly see that the grid is becoming cleaner and cleaner,’ he said. ‘But if we have to wait to have a fully renewable grid, and then only start to integrate renewables, that would probably be a very big mistake.’

Because an EV’s CO2 levels can be lowered long before its first charge, it makes sense to take a holistic approach to EV emissions and electricity usage. For example, manufacturers can opt for more efficient production methods, even incorporating renewables into the process. Furthermore, which cars plug into electromobility will be hugely important.

Eurelectric recently identified the electrification of Europe’s vehicle fleets as a ‘catalyst for clean mobility throughout the 2020s.’ The continent’s fleet is made up of 63 million cars, vans, buses, and trucks, operated by private companies or public authorities. The federation explained, however,  that despite only making up 20% of the parc, these vehicles account for 40% of all kilometres travelled. They also account for 50% of CO2 emissions from transport. ‘Electrification of car fleets can be a real game-changer,’ Kristian Ruby, secretary-general of Eurelectric said. ‘It comes with tangible reductions of total costs of ownership and CO2 emissions. So, it is a good deal both for fleet owners and society at large.’

While the electrification of vehicles contains the potential to reduce CO2 emissions dramatically, it is enormously dependent upon usage. So, when asked, ‘are EVs as green as they seem?’ the answer is yes, but adoption rates will determine their success.

Launch Report: BMW iX3 – conventional and balanced electrification

The iX3 is BMW’s first pure-electric X model and is the most conventional, being effectively a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) version of the best-selling X3.

The iX3 offers good performance, with strong linear acceleration – as usual for a battery-electric vehicle (BEV). The model also strikes a good balance between power and battery capacity, with competitive electricity consumption. In terms of agility and dynamics, the iX3 is slightly better than its direct rivals overall. As the battery is located under the car, this also explains the good roadholding.

Standard equipment is comprehensive, including three-zone climate control, heated and powered front seats (with memory function on the driver’s side), BMW Teleservices and wireless phone charging. Safety features include emergency-assist and rear cross-traffic alert. The 458km range of the iX3 is second only to the Jaguar I-Pace’s 470km range, and it has the fastest charging time when connected to an 11kw AC wallbox, of 7.5 hours.

In addition to BMW’s strong brand image, the iX3 is supported by the company’s longer expertise in electrification. This started with the i3, which has been on the market since 2013, and was followed by plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engines offered on different models in the range, including one for the brand’s X family.

As the first conventional BEV from BMW, the iX3 compares well against key competitors. It is offered at an attractive entry price point and the popularity of both the brand and the X3 range should ensure plenty of demand. Given that the iX3 is very close to the X3, BMW’s D-SUV range is now available in diesel, petrol, PHEV and BEV versions.

Click here or on the image below to read Autovista Group’s benchmarking of the BMW iX3 in France, Spain and the UK. The interactive launch report presents new prices, forecast RVs and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist BMW-1024x652.jpg

Spain introduces MOVES III incentive scheme

Spain introduced the new MOVES III incentive scheme for electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) on 10 April, which includes hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCHVs) for the first time.

All FCHVs, as well as battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that cost less than €45,000 (excluding VAT), are eligible, with the price ceiling rising to €53,000 for vehicles with eight or nine seats. Used EVs that are less than nine months old are also eligible.

It is worth noting that across Spain and the major European markets, the residual-value (RV) disadvantage of BEVs compared to petrol cars has widened since March 2020. The greatest divergence has occurred in Germany, where the gap has widened by just under four percentage points (pp) and stood at 10 pp in January 2021. The divergence accelerated notably following the introduction of enhanced incentives on 1 July 2020.

Cautionary tale

This is a cautionary tale for Spain as it rolls out this new scheme. All governments should look into providing incentives to encourage used-BEV ownership, but these do not need to be straightforward purchase incentives. Lower energy costs for charging BEVs and visible expansion of the charging network would also be powerful signals.

‘The biggest potential risk for pressure on RVs stems from the purchase incentives for EVs. A positive and moderating effect comes from the longer-term ownership tax reduction and a lack of company-car tax benefit,’ commented Ana Azofra, head of valuations and insights at Autovista Group in Spain.

As detailed in the table below, private buyers of EVs with an electric range of at least 90 km are entitled to a subsidy of €4,500 in Spain, which is reduced to €2,500 for EVs with a range of 30 to 90 km.

IDAE MOVES III incentive scheme 1

Source: IDAE

For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the incentives amount to €2,900 for EVs with an electric range of at least 90 km, reducing to €1,700 with a range of 30 to 90 km. For large companies, the incentives are €2,200 for EVs with an electric range of at least 90 km and €1,600 with a range of 30 to 90 km.

MOVES III incentive scheme

Source: IDAE

The scheme runs until the end of 2023, with an initial budget of €400 million, rising to €800 million dependent on its success. This is significantly higher than the original funding allocation of €100 million for the MOVES II scheme that came into effect in June 2020, which the Spanish government extended by €20 million early in March.

‘We have chosen to start with those actions that families, SMEs, the self-employed and, ultimately, the entire fabric of the country can benefit from,’ explained Teresa Ribera, vice president of Spain and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge, in the presentation of the MOVES III plan.

‘It is crucial to keep pace with the actions promoting the value chain of the automotive sector in our country, with the creation of employment and new business models,’ Ribera added.

Unlikely improvement

The new incentives are slightly higher for private buyers but lower for companies. However, the benefits are much greater if a used vehicle over seven years of age is traded in for scrappage. For private buyers, the incentive increases up to €7,000, and up to €4,000 for SMEs and €3,000 for large companies.

‘MOVES III constitutes the most ambitious line of support for electric mobility that our country has proposed and will allow and contribute to the economic reactivation in the short term, accompanying the necessary transformation of the industrial model of our country with the economic and environmental objectives,’ Ribera said.

Nevertheless, the new scheme is unlikely to significantly improve the fortunes of Spain’s new-car market. Registrations grew 128% in March compared with a year ago, but the comparison is distorted by the pandemic. Spanish dealerships closed from 14 March 2020. A more realistic comparison with March 2019 shows the new-car market contracting by 30%. Sales in the first quarter dropped 14.9% against last year’s figures, and were 41.3% down on figures from two years ago.

EV uptake should increase, especially among private buyers, but without an improvement in consumer confidence, and a return of tourism, the Spanish market will continue to struggle overall. Autovista Group forecasts that demand will recover from the 32% loss in 2020, albeit by only 6% to about 900,000 units in 2021.

German registrations start slow recovery in March

New-car registrations in Germany increased 35.9% in March, according to the latest figures from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).

The figure was inflated due to the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown closing dealerships from mid-March in the previous year. However, at that time, registrations performed well compared to other countries. While Spain, France and Italy posted losses of 69.3%, 72.2% and 85.4%, respectively, Germany only saw a decline of 37.7%.

At the end of the first quarter, new registrations totalled 656,452 units, down 6.4% compared to the first three months of last year. This is despite dealerships being closed. The country’s market also suffered due to a VAT increase, with taxes rising from 16% to 19% at the beginning of the year. Autovista Group estimates that around 40,000 registrations were pulled forward into December last year as a result.


Brand increases

All domestic brands showed positive growth in March 2021, the strongest being Smart with a 304.4% increase. Double-digit increases were recorded by Opel (75.1%), Mini (58%), Porsche (55%), Volkswagen Passenger Cars (VW) (39.1%), Mercedes (36.7%), Audi (17.6%) and BMW (17%). VW claimed the largest share of new registrations, taking 19.3% of the market.

Alfa Romeo showed the most significant increase among the imported brands, up by 114.6%. Fellow Stellantis stablemate Peugeot saw sales grow 78.4% while Tesla enjoyed a 63.6% boost. However, Honda (-33.3%), Mitsubishi (-30%) and Jaguar (-10%) were among those to see sales decline in the month.

Electric closes the gap

In terms of fuel type, the market for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) achieved a significant increase of 191.4%, with a market share of 10.3%. With German car brands such as VW and BMW increasing their focus on electrification, there now seems to be an appetite for the technology amongst buyers. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models achieved a 12.2% market share, with sales increasing 277.5% in the month.

The swing to electric drives is more evident when internal combustion engines (ICE) sales are considered. New registrations of passenger cars with petrol engines increased by 7.1%. However, the market share was just 39.4%. The sale of diesel models continued to decline, with 5% fewer in March 2021 for a 22.1% market share. For the second successive month, diesel sales were outpaced by those of hybrids. When including standard and PHEV models, this powertrain type took 27.8% of the market.

The figures, therefore, show that 38.1% of registrations in Germany during the last month were non-ICE models. This is just 1.3% below the market share of petrol in March. It may not be long until sales of these vehicles outpace those of more traditional powertrains.

Germany extended its lockdown period to 18 April following a spike in infection cases. However, the Federation of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) argued that vehicle dealers should be allowed to reopen fully. The group’s main argument is that while a hairdresser, with a floor space of 10m2, is allowed to have one customer, car showrooms with a floor space of 500m2 cannot open.

Launch Report: Volkswagen Caddy – improved engines and specifications

The Volkswagen (VW) Caddy has been redesigned from the ground up, with improved safety, space, engines, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The fit and finish, digital cockpit, and general specification improvements make the model feel more like a VW passenger car. The driving dynamics are very good too, with outstanding roadholding and vehicle stability, as well as a good level of comfort.

Both the Caddy and the Caddy Maxi have grown in length and wheelbase, providing more cargo space. As the model is bigger, the maximum payload is slightly lower, but is the highest among key competitors. However, the loading volume of the Caddy is slightly below average, with the cargo space allowing for just one Euro pallet (only the long-wheelbase Maxi version accommodates two), while most competitors take two in standard form.

The new model hosts a comprehensive offer of assistance systems, including trailer-assist, which is a unique selling point in the segment. The modern interior and digital cockpit are advantageous for dual-use customers, i.e. drivers that use the vehicle for both commercial and private purposes.

The latest Euro 6 diesel engines benefit from huge emissions reductions and better fuel economy, supported by the new double SCR (selective catalytic-reduction) system. The 102-horsepower 2.0TDI has the lowest fuel consumption and CO2 emissions among its key rivals. There is not a fully-electric version of the new Caddy available, unlike small PSA Group and Renault vans. However, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is planned for 2022. A compressed natural gas (CNG) version is already available in France, and will be available to order in Spain from December 2021.

The Caddy has a lower entry list price than its predecessor, but pricing is generally higher than those of other mainstream competitors. However, the fuel savings and reduced CO2 emissions will improve running costs and should entice new buyers. Furthermore, the development of working-from-home, and closures of non-essential retail, have led to an increase in home deliveries, benefiting demand for vans, and their residual values (RVs).

Click here or on the image below to read Autovista Group’s benchmarking of the VW Caddy in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. The interactive launch report presents new prices, forecast RVs and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

Launch Report: VW Caddy

More effort needed to entice private buyers to EVs

More needs to be done to support the private uptake of electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) in the UK, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). New figures show businesses are twice as likely to make the switch from petrol and diesel.

Analysis of new-car registrations in 2020 shows that just 4.6% of privately bought cars were battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), compared to 8.7% for businesses and large fleets. This equates to 34,324 private registrations and 73,881 corporate ones.

In response to this, the SMMT has unveiled a new blueprint to deliver a greater retail uptake. With the UK government planning to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, the body believes now is the time to change people’s attitudes towards EVs.

‘While last year’s bumper uptake of electric vehicles is to be welcomed, it is clear this has been an electric revolution primarily for fleets, not families,’ commented SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. ‘Manufacturers are committed to the consumer, reducing costs and providing as wide a choice as possible of zero-emission capable vehicles with many more to come.

‘To deliver an electric revolution that is affordable, achievable and accessible to all by 2030, however, government and other stakeholders must put ordinary drivers at the heart of policy and planning.’

Increasing availability

According to the SMMT, as of March 2021, manufacturers have brought more than 150 BEV, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) models to the UK market. BEVs and PHEVs alone account for 25% of all available car models.

However, current higher costs of components’  raw materials mean these vehicles are inherently more expensive to manufacture. This implies an EV will retail for more than its fossil fuel equivalents.

Manufacturers are working hard to bring the cost of production down. Yet, they are constrained by lower demand and battery production costs, which have yet to reach the economies of scale required. Batteries have the biggest overall impact, representing 30-45% of the total production cost the SMMT states. BEVs are not expected to reach purchase cost parity with their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts across all car segments in the next few years.

The area where EVs benefit their drivers is in terms of running costs. This is of particular interest to businesses. In addition, company car drivers currently receive stronger and longer-lasting motivation through reduced purchase-taxes and fiscal incentives compared to consumers.

Grants changing

Last week, the UK government announced it will reduce the plug-in car grant and lower the price threshold for eligibility. This effectively adds £500 (€583) to the purchase price of all qualifying EVs under £35,000, and £3,000 to the price of those above £35,000.

By comparison, private buyers in Germany receive a €9,000 grant towards a new BEV, while Dutch drivers do not pay VAT on BEV purchases, equivalent to a purchase cost saving of around a sixth.

The SMMT estimates that maintaining the grant and similarly exempting consumer EV purchases from VAT would increase uptake by almost two-thirds by 2026 compared to current predictions.

Charging locations

The blueprint also calls for more to be done to expand the UK’s EV infrastructure. Private-buyer acceptance remains low because of affordability concerns, charge point availability and infrastructure reliability, according to the SMMT. Around one in three households have no dedicated off-street parking, leaving them disproportionately dependent on public-charging points.

The SMMT’s projections suggest that most drivers will choose to charge their vehicle at home if they can. Therefore, they estimate there would need to be around 2.7 million public-charge points in service by 2030 to provide adequate coverage and tackle range anxiety. The SMMT believes there are around 40,000 charging points in the country, most of which are in London.

This means more than 700 new charge points would have to be installed every day until the end of the decade. By comparison, the current installation rate is approximately 42 a day, according to information provided to the SMMT from charge-point mapping service ZapMap. Funding this expansion is estimated to cost around £17.6 billion.

‘We need incentives that tempt consumers, infrastructure that is robust and charging points that provide reassurance, so that zero-emission mobility will be possible for everyone, regardless of income or location,’ stated Hawes. ‘When every market is vying for these new technologies, a clear and collaborative strategy engaging all would ensure the UK remains an attractive place both to manufacture and market electric vehicles, helping us achieve our net-zero ambition.’

VW Group plans for cheaper EV-battery mass production

Volkswagen (VW) Group has presented its technology roadmap for batteries and charging up to 2030. The carmaker has also indicated that by ramping up its plans, jobs will need to be sacrificed.

The OEM will establish six gigafactories in Europe with a total production capacity of 240GWh by 2030. It will also expand its public fast-charging network, having announced cooperation with BP in the UK, Iberdrola in Spain and Enel in Italy.

Its new roadmap aims to significantly reduce both the battery’s complexity and cost, making electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) attractive and viable for consumers. At the same time, it will shorten its supply chain and control as much of the EV production of as possible.

‘E-mobility has become core business for us,’ commented Herbert Diess, chairman of the VW Group board. ‘We are now systematically integrating additional stages in the value chain. We secure a long-term pole position in the race for the best battery and best customer experience in the age of zero-emission mobility.’

Manufacturing control

As the market leader in Europe, VW Group knows it is responsible for delivering affordable electromobility as the industry transitions away from internal-combustion engine (ICE) technology. While some carmakers have announced plans to go EV-only, the carmaker is creating a sub-brand for its Volkswagen marque. Stablemate Bentley is choosing to focus on battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), and Porsche is investigating eFuels. All VW Group brands will feature electrification in some way. This means the carmaker will need an excessive amount of batteries, both for BEV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models.

‘Together with partners, we want to have a total of six cell factories up and running in Europe by 2030, thus guaranteeing security of supply’, explained Thomas Schmall, VW Group board member for components.

To achieve its aims, VW Group will increase its order of batteries from its supplier Northvolt by €14 billion. It will focus production of premium cells at its factory in Skellefteå, Sweden, which will see manufacturing begin in 2023 and increase gradually to an annual capacity of 40GWh. The carmaker will also purchase outright the joint venture it has with Northvolt for a gigafactory in Salzgitter.

‘Volkswagen is a key investor, customer and partner on the journey ahead, and we will continue to work hard with the goal to provide them with the greenest battery on the planet as they rapidly expand their fleet of electric vehicles,’ said Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt.

The company is considering potential sites and partners for the other factories.

Cheaper batteries

As well as increasing production, VW Group wants to lower the cost of batteries, making vehicles more affordable as a result. ‘We aim to reduce the cost and complexity of the battery and at the same time, increase its range and performance,’ added Schmall. ‘This will finally make e-mobility affordable and the dominant drive technology.’

Therefore, by 2023, the company will introduce a ‘unified cell’, which will feature in 80% of all EVs in the group by 2030. This plan will allow the carmaker to introduce different chemistries into a standard battery-cell design, which will reduce costs while ensuring that each model retains a unique power or range attribute.

Further savings will be delivered by optimising the cell type, deploying innovative production methods, and consistent recycling.

VW Group will gradually reduce battery costs in the entry-level segment by up to 50% and in the volume segment by up to 30%. ‘We will use our economies of scale to the benefit of our customers when it comes to the battery too. On average, we will drive down the cost of battery systems to significantly below €100 per kilowatt-hour. This will finally make e-mobility affordable and the dominant drive technology,’ said Schmall.

Expanding charging infrastructure

In order to facilitate mass-adoption of its EVs, the OEM is also looking to expand its fast-charging network and has partnered with local providers in key markets to achieve this.

Along with its partners, the company intends to operate about 18,000 public fast-charging points in Europe by 2025. This represents a five-fold expansion of the fast-charging network compared to today.

The carmaker wants to establish about 8,000 fast-charging points throughout Europe together with BP. With a charging capacity of 150kW, the fast chargers will be installed at 4,000 BP and Aral service stations, with the majority of these in Germany and Great Britain. In cooperation with Iberdrola, Volkswagen will cover the main traffic routes in Spain. In Italy, it will collaborate with Enel to establish a fast-charging network both along motorways and in urban areas. The carmaker will also continue its activities as part of the Ionity joint venture.

Job losses

While the roadmap promises cheaper EVs with increased production, the carmaker is also poised to cut jobs to reduce costs.

In agreement with its works council, the group will freeze its workforce size at the January 2021 level and open up an extensive retirement package. It will offer partial retirement to employees born in 1964, as part of the digital transformation roadmap. It will reopen partial retirement for those born in 1961 and 1962, and launch an early-retirement programme for those born between 1956 to 1960.

‘Disciplined cost management will continue to be necessary to finance the required investments in the future, to remain competitive and, above all, to make it possible to safeguard jobs in the long run,’ commented Gunnar Kilian, chief human resources officer of Volkswagen AG. ‘The measures set out in the guidelines provide the right solution for this. We are strengthening the internal transformation of our workforce and creating jobs in forward-looking areas – through training and targeted external recruitment. For this purpose, we are also increasing our training budget by €40 million to a total of €200 million.’

Based on experience, the company expects up to 900 employees to volunteer for the short-term early-retirement models, with a low four-digit figure for partial retirement.

Video: Europe’s registrations struggle in February but improvements to come

Autovista Group Daily Brief editor Phil Curry discusses the registration figures from Europe’s big five automotive markets. While numbers may be down, the outlook for the whole year is more positive…

To get notifications for all the latest videos, you can subscribe for free to the Autovista Group Daily Brief YouTube channel.

Show notes

Lockdown drives German new-car registrations down by 19% in February

February UK new-car registrations plunge to level of 1959

Significant downturns in European registrations in February

Conditional reopening of German car showrooms

England’s car showrooms to remain closed until 12 April

Podcast: How is European automotive adapting to pandemic and climate-change fallout?

Daily Brief editor Phil Curry and journalist Tom Geggus discuss key activities and developments in the European automotive sector from the past fortnight. These include COVID-19’s effect on the uptake of mobility-as-a-service (MAAS), different fuel types, and autonomous technology.

Show notes

Cazoo buys Cluno as CaaS options increase

Significant downturns in European registrations in February

Lockdown drives German new-car registrations down by 19% in February

February UK new-car registrations plunge to level of 1959

VW accelerates towards electric and digital future

VW aims for commercialised autonomous systems in 2025

Is it too early to go ‘EV-only’?

Ford to be zero-emission capable in Europe by 2026

Jaguar makes BEV and hydrogen changes on path to net zero

Volvo to go all electric and online by 2030

E-fuels gain awareness as Mazda joins alliance

Launch Report: Hyundai Tucson – bolder and roomier

The new Hyundai Tucson has an assertive and bold design, with its front face combining the headlights and grille. The 3D rear-light signature echoes the progressive triangular headlight design and two-tone colour personalisation is now possible. As the new Tucson is longer and wider, it is roomier and more practical than its predecessor and has a large boot.

The modern and refined digital cockpit, featuring a flush-fitting 10-inch screen, is standard across the range and there is also a digital TFT screen directly in front of the driver. The materials, trim and build quality are all good and there are numerous ADAS and safety features, including a central airbag between the two front seats. A neat touch is the blind-spot monitoring system, which shows a digital feed from the left or right side of the car, depending on which direction is indicated.

The Tucson is offered with mild-hybrid (MHEV) petrol and diesel engines or as a full hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV), and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version will be available too. The trim lines are well composed and there are relatively few options, leading to well-equipped used cars.

With the leap forward in quality and roominess compared to its predecessor, the Tucson has the potential to attract a wider selection of consumers. The HEV version may present an attractive business proposition for buyers who are not yet ready to plug in.

Click here or on the image below to read Autovista Group’s benchmarking of the Hyundai Tucson in France, Germany and the UK. The interactive launch report presents new prices, forecast residual values and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

Launch Report: Hyundai Tucson

Daimler to become Mercedes-Benz as it spins off truck business

Daimler is to undergo a fundamental change in its structure, spinning off its trucks business and renaming itself Mercedes-Benz. The move is intended to help the company unlock the full potential of its business in a zero-emission future.

Daimler Truck will become a listed company with a majority stake distributed to Daimler shareholders. Mercedes-Benz will continue to develop models for both the passenger car and van markets. Diverging the business will allow each unit to focus on new technologies that are impacting their respective sectors.

Signs of a shift in policy emerged last year when Daimler announced it was developing hydrogen systems for its trucks business while cancelling plans for fuel-cell-powered cars. As the commercial and car markets are likely to take different paths towards zero-emissions, each company will now be able to put funding and resources into its own development rather than share the pot and restrict development as a result. The split is expected to occur at the end of this year, with an extra-ordinary shareholder meeting in Q3 to discuss the final plans and obtain approval.

Corporate structure

‘This is a historic moment for Daimler. It represents the start of a profound reshaping of the company. Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans and Daimler Trucks & Buses are different businesses with specific customer groups, technology paths and capital needs.’ said Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of management of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

‘Both companies operate in industries that are facing major technological and structural changes. Given this context, we believe they will be able to operate most effectively as independent entities, equipped with strong net liquidity and free from the constraints of a conglomerate structure,’ he added.

As part of a more focused corporate structure, both Mercedes-Benz and Daimler Truck will be supported by dedicated captive financial and mobility service entities. The company plans to assign resources and teams from its current Daimler Mobility business to both brands.

‘We have confidence in the financial and operational strength of our two vehicle divisions. And we are convinced that independent management and governance will allow them to operate even faster, invest more ambitiously, target growth and cooperation, and thus be significantly more agile and competitive,’ commented Källenius.

Sustainability needs

Daimler had been struggling in recent years, announcing a series of profit warnings and initially struggling with its CO2 targets following the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light-Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). Last year, the company managed to turn things around, tripling sales of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles, and forecasting that it met its emissions figures to avoid any EU-sanctioned penalties.

‘We will continue to push forward with our ’Electric first’ strategy and the further expansion of our electric model initiative. Based on our current knowledge, we expect to meet the CO2 targets in Europe again in 2021,’ said Källenius.

With separate CO2 targets for passenger cars and trucks, Daimler will be keen to keep up this momentum, especially with stricter EU regulations for 2025 and 2030. Therefore, separating its trucks business will give Mercedes-Benz more focus on ensuring it meets guidelines by focusing on its electrification plans.

Further strategy

In October, Daimler unveiled a raft of plans that would see Mercedes-Benz focus on the luxury market with a shift to electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs). The company plans for the number of internal combustion engine (ICE) models it offers to drop 70% by 2030. Part of this plan could see its range of compact models decrease as it focuses its product portfolio on the most profitable parts of the market.

‘We intend to build the world’s most desirable cars,’ said Källenius at the time. ‘It is about leveraging our strengths as a luxury brand to grow economic value and enhancing the mix and positioning of our product portfolio. We will unlock the full potential of our unique sub-brands – AMG, Maybach, G and EQ. Our strategy is designed to avoid non-core activities to focus on winning where it matters: dedicated electric vehicles and proprietary car software. We will take action on structural costs, target strong and sustained profitability.’

By divesting itself of Daimler Trucks, the carmaker can now focus on expanding new technologies in the passenger car market, including expanding its EQ line-up of BEVs. It plans to increase its range in the shortest space of time, meaning product development resources and expertise will be shifted to electric-drive projects.

Germany: new-car registrations down 31% in January

New-car registrations fell by 31.1% in Germany during January compared with the same month in 2020. A total of 169,754 passenger cars were registered according to the latest figures from the country’s automotive authority, the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).

This aligns with the Autovista Group expectation of a return to year-on-year declines of about 30% in countries where dealers were closed for physical sales. Germany is the largest European market affected in January, with the restrictions currently in place until 14 February.

The German market was also hampered by the return to a 19% VAT rate since 1 January 2021, which had been reduced to 16% from 1 July to 31 December 2020. Autovista Group estimates that this change advanced about 40,000 new-car registrations into December 2020, when the market rose 9.9% compared to the previous reporting period. Furthermore, the shortage of semiconductors will have invariably disrupted some new cars’ deliveries in the country last month.

New-car registrations, Germany, y-o-y % change, January 2020 to January 2021

Pkw-Neuzulassungen, Deutschland, Veränderung in % gegenüber dem Vorjahr, Januar 2020 bis Januar 2021

Source: KBA

There were two fewer working days in January 2021 than in January last year. On a comparable working-day basis, Autovista Group estimates that registrations fell by about 23% in the last month, and annualised new-car demand was at 2.94 million units. As in France, Spain and Italy, the start to 2021 of Germany’s new-car market has been deceptively shaky.

Given the mitigating factors in January, this bodes relatively well for the German market, which Autovista Group currently forecasts will recover to 3.15 million units in 2021, 8% up on 2020. This is at the same level as the German automotive industry association VDA forecasts. However, the VDA rightly highlighted that 2021 will still be ‘significantly lower than the approximately 3.5 million new registrations of the years 2017 to 2019.’

‘We assume that the second half of 2021 will bring an improvement, if the progress in vaccination is so great that the pandemic can be noticeably contained in everyday life,’ commented VDA president Hildegard Müller. This echoes the EU-wide sentiment expressed by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). ‘The year 2021 will decide the future of the industry in Germany and Europe. We are at a turning point that will set the direction for the following decades,’ Müller added.

Brands and segments

German brands reflected January’s negative performance. Audi (down 47.4%), Mini (down 41.5%), and Ford (down 41.1%) saw the most significant declines. Meanwhile, Porsche posted the smallest losses, with a drop of 3.9%. Volkswagen maintained the largest market share, of 20.1%.

Among the imported brands, Tesla and Volvo exceeded their registration results for the same reporting period in 2020, up 23.4% and 9.4% respectively. In contrast, declines of more than 70% were seen at Jaguar and Honda (down 77.9% and 70.1% respectively), while Fiat recorded the smallest decrease of 14.8%. Skoda was the strongest imported brand for market share, with 6.7% of registrations.

Motorhomes were the only segment to achieve growth, of 5%, to capture a market share of 1.9%. Meanwhile, small MPVs saw the most severe decline at 63.6%, and full-size MPVs fell 55.3%, sports cars slumped by 43.2% and utility vehicles dropped by 42%. SUVs were the strongest segment with 21.9% of the market, despite a decrease of 26.4%, followed by the compact segment with a 19.1% share, down 32.2%.

Fuel types

Registrations of petrol-powered cars fell by half (50.3%) in January 2021 compared to the previous reporting period, taking 37.1% of the market. Diesel also dropped by 44.8%, representing just over a quarter of new cars (26.1%). In contrast, electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) saw year-on-year growth of 117.8%, with a total of 16,315 new units registered, taking their share to 9.6%.

Some 45,449 hybrids were registered in January, up 47.5%, while securing 26.8% of the market. A total of 20,588 plug-in hybrid units were registered in January, up 138.3%, with a 12.1% share. Natural gas (259) and liquefied gas (340) only accounted for 0.2% of the market last month, recording a combined decrease of 35.5%. The average CO2 emissions of newly registered cars was 125.9 g/km, representing a decrease of 16.9%.

The tipping balance towards EVs, and away from internal combustion engines (ICE), follows on from a trend recorded last year. In 2020, alternative drives made up of hybrid, fuel-cell, gas, hydrogen, and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), claimed approximately a quarter of all new-car registrations. The German government set out COVID-19 recovery plans as a springboard towards a greener economy, with a greater emphasis on electromobility. In November, it committed a €4 billion stimulus package to the automotive sector, with funds channelled into the adaptation of production lines and incentivising the purchase of EVs.

Used-car markets and RVs under limited pressure in 2021

Senior data journalist Neil King explains Autovista Group’s key predictions for the year ahead, focusing on used-car demand and residual values in this second part.

Europe’s big five markets all suffered double-digit declines in new-car registrations in 2020, but used-car transactions exhibited more resilience. The exception is Italy, which suffered the same year-on-year in used-car transactions in Italy as new-car registrations, 27.9%, according to industry association ANFIA.

In contrast to the dramatic 29% decline in new-car registrations, used-car transactions in Spain declined by 12.8% in 2020, to 1,963,053 transactions, according to GANVAM, the Spanish dealers’ association.

‚The used-car market in Spain is always more favoured than the new-car market in times of crisis. Sales fell by only 13% in 2020, and the age structure of these sales has changed substantially in recent months and will continue to do so throughout 2021. The most notable change is undoubtedly the lower prevalence of young used cars in the market, caused by the standstill in tourism and the lack of renewal of rental fleets. In 2021, we also expect a greater share of electric vehicles in the used-car market, which accounted for just 0.2% of total sales in 2020,’ explained Azofra.

In the UK, used-car sales data are not yet available for full-year 2020, but the country’s used-car market contracted by 17.5% year-on-year in the first three quarters. Autovista Group estimates that used-car transactions were 15% lower in the year as a whole. This is only about half the contraction suffered by the new-car market. Used-car transactions are naturally expected to improve in 2021, but with a lower growth rate than new-car registrations.

Used-car transactions in France declined by a modest 3.8% in 2020, compared to a 25.5% fall in the new-car market, according to industry association CCFA. ‘The demand for diesel cars on the used-car market is still high while the supply is lower and lower, but petrol sales, which account for about 40% of total used-car sales, reached a maximum in 2020,’ explained Yoann Taitz, Autovista Group head of valuations and insights, France and Benelux. Limited growth, if any, is therefore expected in 2021.

Slight improvement for Germany

Even in Germany, where the used-car market declined by only 2.4% in 2020, according to the KBASchwacke expects a slight improvement in used-car sales compared to 2020. ‘The used-car business was quite successful over the past 12 months under the circumstances and sold slightly more than seven million cars by the end of the year. The forecast for 2021 is the same – around seven million cars,’ commented Andreas Geilenbrügge, head of valuations and insights at Schwacke.

Europe: new-car registrations and used-car transactions, year-on-year % change, 2020

Europa: Neuzulassungen und Gebrauchtwagen-Transaktionen, Veränderung in % gegenüber dem Vorjahr, 2020


(Note: UK is estimated, based on the latest data)

RVs grow in 2020, face limited pressure in 2021

Autovista Group’s COVID-19 tracker shows that the index of residual values (RVs) finished 2020 at or above pre-crisis levels in all of Europe’s major markets. The measurements began in February, with an index value of 100.

Grafik: Restwertprognose 2021

Source: Autovista Group, Residual Value Intelligence, COVID-19 tracker

Residual values have peaked, however, and have declined in recent weeks. Looking to 2021, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and the economic impact, as well as the aversion to public transport, will support used-car demand. Autovista Group therefore predicts that residual values will only come under limited pressure.

Spain: difficult year

The tax rise in Spain, with the introduction of WLTP-based emissions figures, and the end to the RENOVE scrappage scheme will hinder new-car demand and means RVs may increase slightly in value terms in Spain, but a 1.1% decline is forecast in terms of trade percentage, i.e. value retention, in the standard 36-month/60,000km scenario.

‘We foresee a difficult year for the sector, especially in terms of new-car sales. However, used-car sales will resist the onslaught of the crisis better and only their average residual values will be slightly affected.’ Azofra emphasised.

‘Electric vehicles will experience greater pressure on their transaction prices in the used-car market. On the one hand, their price is still very high, which is an important market barrier, even more so in crisis circumstances such as the present. On the other hand, demand is trying to be stimulated through incentive schemes, so it will be difficult to maintain their used-car price. In addition, the recharging infrastructure is still insufficient, the poorest in the big five European countries, which reduces their development space in the used-car market. With regard to the rest of the engines, we estimate small negative adjustments in petrol and diesel vehicles and greater stability for hybrid engines, which are in increasing demand.’

The end to Brexit uncertainty could serve as a positive for the UK’s new-car market, but deliveries may be affected and price rises are expected as the share of components in some engines will invariably exceed the ‘locally-sourced’ threshold. It is an incredibly difficult call but Glass’s, the UK arm of Autovista Group, forecasts a 1.4% decline in the RVs, in trade percentage terms.

Schwacke points out that fleet registrations from 2017/2018 declined somewhat in Germany and there were also almost 400,000 tactical registrations less from 2020, of which usually two thirds are sold to end customers as young used vehicles in the year after first registration.

Stable demand

‘In view of the expected stable demand, this is definitely a plus point for price development in the coming year, but supply volume will probably struggle,’ said Geilenbrügge. The return to a 19% VAT rate on new cars will also affect RVs, but a modest decline of 0.7%, in trade percentage terms, is forecast for used cars in the 36-month/60,000km scenario.

The tax changes in France, which penalise petrol cars more than diesels, and incentives for EVs present a mixed picture. ‘In 2021, there is a clear risk of having a new-car market in contradiction with the used-car market. For CO2 reasons, the fuel types that are driving the new-car market are not the most attractive ones on the used-car market. Lower supply will reduce the RV pressure on petrol cars, and the sales stop of powerful diesel engines, which are well demanded on the used-car market will especially support RVs of these specific vehicles. The high prices and bonus for EVs still impacts RVs, especially at 12 months, but the €1,000€ bonus reduction in July 2021 will support RVs more positively,’ explained Taitz. Overall, the latest RV outlook for France calls for a minimal drop of 0.4% in the prices, in trade percentage terms, of used cars.

The poorest RV outlook is in Italy, where used cars have not weathered the COVID-19 storm better than new cars and the introduction of additional incentives for new cars will apply more pressure on used-car demand and residual values. RVs of used cars in the 36-month/60,000km scenario are currently forecast to fall by 3.9% in trade percentage terms.

In a first part, King discussed Autovista Group’s predictions for new-car registrations in Europe’s major markets in 2021.

COVID-19 and other market factors breed caution for 2021

Europe’s big five markets all suffered double-digit declines in new-car registrations in 2020 and the magnitude of the recovery in 2021 fundamentally depends on the duration and severity of restrictions to tackle COVID-19 and the accompanying economic impact. Automotive-specific factors will also determine the extent to which markets bounce back in 2021. Senior data journalist Neil King explains Autovista Group’s key predictions for the year ahead, focusing on new-car registrations in this first part.

Despite the new-car market stability in December, Spain still contracted more than the other major European markets in 2020. This does not automatically mean it will enjoy the highest level of growth in 2021. The end of the RENOVE scrappage scheme on 31 December 2020 and higher, WLTP-based registration taxes from 1 January 2021 pulled demand forward into 2020. Furthermore, with no improvement in Spain’s crucial tourism sector, and therefore the wider economy, envisaged in the near future, new-car registrations in Spain are expected to recover at a slower rate than in the leading European markets, except Germany.

‘A very tough first half of the year is expected, and a start to the recovery in the second half of the year. In any case, the recovery will be slow, and we do not expect new-car volumes to reach figures similar to those of 2019 for at least three years,’ commented Ana Azofra, valuations and insights manager at Autovista Group in Spain.

The recovery in Germany is forecast to be rather limited, not only because it starts from the highest base, declining by only 19% in 2020, but also as new-car demand will be slightly hampered by the return to a VAT rate of 19%, up from the reduced rate of 16% that was in effect from 1 July to 3 December 2020. The smaller quantities of newly launched high-volume vehicles in 2021, and the reduction in the range of products due to the threat of CO2 fines, will also have an impact. However, regained production capacity, as well as the significantly lower availability of very young used cars, should act as positive effects. Autovista Group’s Schwacke is cautiously optimistic for 2021 and forecasts a recovery to just under 3.1 million units, equating to growth of 6%.

New-car registrations, major European markets, year-on-year % change, 2020

Pkw-Neuzulassungen, wichtigste europäische Märkte, Veränderung gegenüber dem Vorjahr in %, 2020


Post-Brexit Britain, incentivised Italy

The declines in new-car registrations in Italy and the UK in 2020, were 27.9% and 29.4% respectively. However, new-purchase incentives introduced in Italy and the end to Brexit uncertainty in the UK, which compounded the effects of COVID-19, will provide a positive impetus to demand in 2021.

Autovista Group’s latest base-case forecast predicts a 25% improvement in UK new-car registrations in 2021, to just over two million units. However, this is predicated upon vehicle deliveries being largely unimpaired by post-Brexit disruption after any short-term teething problems, and the car market being able to recover from the current lockdown, together with any further restrictions that may be imposed later in the year.

‘Import delays at the port of entry will reduce UK registrations in Q1 and Q2 2021 and manufacturers are still not producing cars at full capacity due to COVID-19. The UK is also in lockdown but click-and-collect will help some car registrations, with the November 2020 volumes highlighting the need retail customers still have to kick tyres,’ said Anthony Machin, head of content and product at Glass’s.

The recovery is not expected to be as pronounced in Italy, but the new incentives will certainly help to drive the recovery.

Fuelling France

The French new-car market contracted slightly less than Italy and the UK in 2020, by 25.5%. In addition to the COVID-19 effect, the market was impacted by tax changes that were introduced in March 2020 and especially penalise petrol cars. These negative influences should dissipate during 2021 but the reduction in incentives for electrically-chargeable vehicles (EV) and the threshold for the environmental ‘malus’ (penalty), along with a higher penalty ceiling, will suppress demand.

‘Despite a more favourable malus scheme for diesel cars on the new-car market, I do not expect a diesel sales increase in 2021 and I expect lower petrol sales. However, OEMs are pushing battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) on the new-car market for CO2 reasons and the number of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) increased a lot in 2020, a rise that will continue in 2021. Hybrids also offer a real alternative to petrol cars as they are cheaper than PHEVs, the electricity usage is simpler and, in terms of taxation, they offer the same benefits,’ explained Yoann Taitz, Autovista Group head of valuations and insights, France and Benelux.

In a follow-up article, King will discuss Autovista Group’s predictions for used-car demand and residual values in Europe’s major markets in 2021.

Brexit deal introduces threshold to sourcing BEV components, or tariffs to apply

The Brexit deal has offered some relief to UK manufacturers of electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) following earlier reports that tariffs would be applied to exported vehicles that do not contain a certain quota of ‘locally-sourced’ components.

During negotiations, issues surrounding the number of components used in vehicles from outside Europe came to light. This problem especially affected EVs, where all pieces of the battery count as components and many of which are sourced from Asia.

Without a certain number of locally-sourced parts, vehicles would be subject to tariffs under World Trade Organisation rules, meaning EVs could see an additional 10% added to UK exports to the continent. For the purposes of any deal, locally sourced would mean components produced within the European Union and/or the UK.

In October 2020, this issue was reported as a sticking point in negotiations, with components from Japan and Turkey highlighted as being unable to count as locally sourced, despite the UK negotiating free-trade agreements with both countries. Manufacturers with plants based in the UK and the EU will need to prove that exported goods are European-made, with a specified threshold of parts, a move known as ‘cumulation’.

Battery threshold

The Brexit trade deal offers carmakers a slender lifeline, with a staggered transition period of three and six years. In this time, the number of locally-sourced components must increase; otherwise, tariffs will be introduced, in spite of a free-trade agreement.

Up until 31 December 2023, Annex Orig-2B: Transitional product-specific rules for electric accumulators and electrified vehicles, states that accumulators and battery cells must either be produced in the EU or comprise no more than 70% non-EU components before tariffs are introduced. Hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) can comprise no more than 60% non-EU or UK components.

However, following this period, a further stage has been included, whereby the threshold of non-local parts drops, with accumulators only allowed to feature a maximum  40% foreign components, battery cells 50% and hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs a limit of 55%, until 31 December 2026.

The rules for 2027 and beyond will be reviewed later, but not before 2025 after the first transition period has passed.

‘The review shall be done on the basis of available information about the markets within the parties, such as the availability of sufficient and suitable originating materials, the balance between supply and demand and other relevant information,’ the document states.

Sourcing components

The parts requirement could have a significant impact on automotive manufacturing in the UK, particularly in terms of where components are sourced. Currently, Toyota builds hybrid models in the country, while Nissan produces its BEV Leaf model for export to Europe. Other carmakers are also developing their UK lines for electrification, with BMW preparing to build the Mini Electric, and Jaguar Land Rover retooling their plants for upcoming models.

The terms of the deal mean that carmakers must find as many locally-sourced components as possible for EVs and hybrids to be built in the UK. Failure to adhere to the thresholds as laid out in the UK-EU deal will mean vehicles built in Britain will have a 10% tariff added when they are shipped. This will likely make them uncompetitive on the European market, impacting sales as a result.

The automotive industry is increasingly moving away from internal combustion engines (ICE) as CO2 targets mean zero-emission technology is the only way to meet mandates. Yet the supply of crucial components related to the battery and motors is dominated by companies and plants based in Asia, which do not count as locally sourced.

There is, however, an increasing drive for battery manufacturing in Europe, with several companies announcing the building of gigafactories on the continent. There is also a project to develop batteries in the UK, adding to the available local components‘ roster. Many of these aim to be fully up and running by the middle of the decade, with production starting slowly in the next couple of years. This could represent a realistic opportunity of meeting both threshold targets.

Free trade

However, the complexities of trade agreements could also prove difficult to UK vehicle manufacturing. Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that Nissan had chosen not to produce its upcoming electric Ariya SUV at its Sunderland plant, which is already tooled for production thanks to its manufacturing of the Leaf. Instead, the company will produce the vehicle in Japan and take advantage of free-trade deals with the EU and the UK to export the vehicle to these markets. However, Nissan has stated that it had no plans to produce the Ariya in the UK at all, according to Automotive News Europe.

These trade agreements could see other EV developments pulled out of the UK, while some European-based manufacturers may already be considering moving production of PHEVs and BEVs out of the country in case they cannot meet the first threshold deadline in 2024.

German new-car registrations down 19% in 2020

Germany saw the registration of 2.9 million new cars in 2020, down 19.1% on 2019. The latest figures from the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) show that 62.8% of these units were registered for commercial purposes, down 22.4%, while 37.1% of the market share was private, down 13%.

Bidding farewell to a year of unprecedented challenges, the German market was able to end 2020 on a marginally positive note. A total of 311,394 passenger cars were sold in December last year, up 9.9% on the same period from 2019. Accompanied by an 8.4% rise in September, the German new-car market only saw two months of registration growth in 2020. These upticks in the second half of last year represent a move away from the 61% plunge in April and 49.5% drop in May.

New-car registrations, Germany, y-o-y % change, January to December 2020

Pkw-Neuzulassungen, Deutschland, Veränderung gegenüber dem Vorjahr in %, Januar bis Dezember 2020
Data: KBA

While Germany appears to be leading the way with a recovering automotive market, difficulties continue across Europe as member states are battered by fresh pandemic waves. In December last year, French new-car registrations dropped by 11.8% compared to the same period in 2019. Italy felt a greater decline at 14.9%, while Spain saw just 13 fewer registered units than December 2019. However, Germany does not appear to be out of the woods yet.

Climbing infection rates have triggered an extension of the country’s lockdown measures until the end of January. This makes a positive start to this year seem even less likely as dealerships must remain closed, except for the service departments. While Autovista Group’s Schwacke expects to see a recovery to just under 3.1 million new-car registrations in 2021, it predicts figures will be below those in previous years, and significantly below 2019’s peak.

New-car registrations, EU4, y-o-y % change, January to December 2020

Pkw-Neuzulassungen, EU4, Veränderung in % gegenüber dem Vorjahr, Januar bis Dezember 2020


Drives and segments

With the largest share of last year’s market at 46.7%, a total of 1,361,723 petrol-powered cars were registered, down 36.3% on 2019. Meanwhile, 819,896 diesel-driven cars took a 28.1% share, down 28.9% on the previous year.

Alternative drives, consisting of hybrids, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel-cell and gas claimed approximately a quarter of all new-car registrations in Germany last year. Hybrids achieved a share of 18.1%, up 120.6% on the previous period with 527,864 registrations, including plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) with 200,469 units, up 342.1% and with a market share of 6.9%. Electric cars represented 6.7% of the market, up 206.8% to 194,163 units. A total of 7,159 gas-powered cars were registered in 2020, down 6.1% on 2019, and LPG-driven cars saw a drop of 9.8%, to 6,543 units. CO2 emissions from cars fell by 11.0% last year, on average to 139.8g/km from 157.0g/km in the previous reporting period.

Over half of all registrations were accounted for by SUVs (21.3%), compact cars (20.5%) or small cars (15.1%). With 2.6% of the market, motorhomes saw the most significant increase, up 41.4%.

Brand performance

All German brands showed a decline last year. Smart took the hardest fall at 67.3%, followed by Opel, which dropped by 32.3%, then Ford down 30.6%. VW fell by 21.3% on the previous reporting year, Audi slumped by 19.9%, Porsche was down by 16.3%, BMW dropped by 13.7%. Negative results were also reported by Mini (down 11.7%) and Mercedes (down 10.6%). With a share of 18%, VW held the largest share of the new-car market in 2020.

For imported brands, both Tesla (up 55.9%) and Fiat (up 0.2%) reported positive results for 2020. Meanwhile, declines were recorded by Suzuki (down 44.8%), Ssangyoung (down 40.2%), Mazda (down 38.1%) and Dacia (down 36.6%). Skoda led the imported brands with a market share of 6.2%, followed by Renault with 4.3%.

Alternative drives made up a quarter of German registrations in 2020

Alternative drives, consisting of hybrid, fuel-cell, gas, hydrogen, and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), claimed approximately a quarter of all new-car registrations in Germany in 2020. This result came in a year defined by COVID-19, when registrations in the country declined by roughly 20%.

The country’s government sought to use the pandemic as a springboard for a greener economy, with a greater emphasis on electromobility. In November last year, it committed a €4 billion stimulus package to the automotive sector, with funds being channelled into the adaptation of production lines and incentivising the purchase of electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs).

An electric transformation

With the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) reporting the number of newly-registered BEVs increased by 206% in 2020, compared with 2019, the German automotive market does look to be on track for an electric transformation. Some 13.5% of all newly-registered passenger cars in the country now sport an electrified drivetrain, from BEVs to plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) and fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The federal states of Schleswig-Holstein, Berlin and Baden-Württemberg played host to a high share of these new EV registrations last year, at over 16%.

‘E-mobility is now at the heart of mobile society. Positive user experiences, reliable technologies and a growing range of products facilitate the switch to e-mobility. With a sustained trend for registrations of vehicles with electric powertrains, around 22% in the last quarter of 2020, the government target of seven to 10 million electric vehicles registered in Germany by the year 2030 can be achieved,’ said KBA President Damm.

Segments and brands

The small-car segment was the strongest, accounting for 29.9% of registrations of new BEVs in 2020. Meanwhile, SUVs made up just under a fifth of the registration volume of new BEVs. The compact segment also reached a high share of this type, with 19.6%.

For BEVs, private registrations made up almost half of all registrations, at 48.8%. For all alternative powertrains, two-thirds were commercial (63.5%), and one third (35.4%) were private. Overall, some 63% of all new-car registrations, including petrol and diesel, were registered for commercial use in 2020. 

A total of 394,940 new EVs were registered last year. VW passenger cars claimed the highest market share at 17.4%, up 608.6% compared with 2019. Meanwhile, Mercedes enjoyed a 14.9% share, up 499.8%, and Audi took 9%, up 607.9%. A total of 194,163 new BEVs were registered in the country in 2020. The VW brand claimed a 23.8% share of this volume, representing a 463.3% increase on the previous year. Renault then followed with a share of 16.2%, up 233.8%, and Tesla captured 8.6%, up 55.9%.

VW achieved the largest share of the EV parc, with 16%, pulling ahead of BMW at 12.3%, and Mercedes at 12.1%. For BEVs, VW claimed a 20.2% share, this time ahead of Renault at 18.1%, Smart at 11.6% and Tesla at 11.1%.

Around 70% of the battery-electric car parc was allocated to the small-car (33%), compact (19.6%) and mini (17.3%) segments. The stock of battery-electric passenger cars in the SUV segment, which has a high number of registrations, reached a share of 14.4%.

While the KBA has yet to confirm the total number of new-car registrations in 2020, at the end of last year Autovista Group’s Schwacke projected a recovery to just under 3.1 million in 2021. This would follow an expected registration volume of 2.9 million new cars in Germany in 2020.

Mercedes-Benz goes on the electric offensive

Mercedes-Benz has announced where its upcoming battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will be produced, as it goes on an electric offensive. Built in its factories in Germany, the US, and China, these new BEVs will be assembled alongside vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICE).

Mercedes-Benz revealed a total of eight EQ BEVs will be in production across seven of its locations by 2022. Spanning three continents, this production map will be essential for the carmaker to achieve its goal of electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) making up half of its sales by 2030. The electrification of the manufacturer’s entire product range is a key component of the ‘Ambition 2039’ strategy and a prerequisite on the way to CO2 neutrality.

‘With its ‘Electric First’ strategy, Mercedes-Benz is consistently on the path to CO2 neutrality and is investing heavily in transformation,’ said Markus Schäfer, member of the board of management responsible for Daimler Group Research and COO Mercedes-Benz cars. ‘Our vehicle portfolio becomes electric and thus also our global production network with vehicle and battery factories. We intend to lead in the field of e-mobility and focus in particular on battery technology. We are taking a comprehensive approach, ranging from research and development to production, and also including strategic cooperation.’

Global production

The first Mercedes-Benz electric luxury sedan, the EQS, will launch from Factory 56 in Sindelfingen in the first half of 2021. The electric EQA C-SUV will also be made at the Beijing plant in China next year, after initially entering production at the Rastatt plant in Germany this year. It is a similar story for the EQE, which will be built in the Bremen site in Germany and Beijing in China from next year. Meanwhile, the EQB compact will be built at the Kecskemét plant in Hungary in 2021. The EQS und EQE SUVs will be manufactured in Alabama, US, starting from 2022. The EQC business sedan is already built in Bremen and Beijing.

Battery systems will also be produced and assembled in Germany, Poland, Beijing and Alabama. ‘The local production of batteries is an essential success factor in our electric offensive,’ said Jörg Burzer, member of the board of management for production and supply chain. He explained that the carmaker already produces batteries in Kamenz, Bangkok and Beijing, with a network that is well-positioned for the EQ offensive. ‘The ramp-up of our battery plants in Hedelfingen and Jawor is imminent and our colleagues in Brühl and Tuscaloosa are already preparing to start production in 2022.’

‘The Mercedes-Benz production network is global, digital and flexible, and ready for the upcoming electric offensive – thanks, of course, to our highly qualified and motivated employees worldwide. We are now beginning a real Mercedes-EQ fireworks display,’ said Burzer.

‘Six electric product launches by 2022 underscore the strength and competence of our Mercedes-Benz production sites worldwide. The production network will have a total of six Mercedes-EQ car locations. Local production of highly efficient battery systems plays a central role in the Mercedes-Benz strategy – coupled with a comprehensive sustainability concept that spans the entire life cycle of the battery all the way to recycling,’ he concluded.

Making the battery market more sustainable

The European Commission wants to enforce mandatory requirements on all batteries entering the EU market, which includes applications within the automotive sector, alongside industrial and portable-uses cases.

This could include using responsibly-sourced materials with constrained use of hazardous substances, including a minimum amount of recycled materials, as well as carbon footprint, performance and durability. The Commission argues this would help develop a more sustainable and competitive battery industry across Europe and the wider world.

These requirements come as part of plans that will modernise EU legislation on batteries, focusing on greater sustainability throughout their lifecycle. They also address social, economic, and environmental issues tied to all types of batteries.

The changes complement the Circular Economy Action Plan, a core building block of the European Green Deal. The Commission argues these roadmaps promote competitive sustainability while enabling green transport, clean energy and the attainment of climate neutrality by 2050.

Sustainable and safe

The proposals set out the need for batteries placed on the EU market to become sustainable, high-performing and safe throughout their whole lifecycle. This singles out batteries produced with the lowest level of environmental impact, using materials sourced in full respect of human rights, following social and ecological standards. Under these proposals, at the end of their life cycle, these units should be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled, allowing valuable materials to re-enter the economy.

In addition, providing legal certainty would help unlock large-scale investment and boost the production capacity for innovation and sustainability, to help Europe respond to a fast-growing battery market. ‘Better and more performant batteries will make a key contribution to the electrification of road transport, which will significantly reduce its emissions, increase the uptake of electric vehicles and facilitate a higher share of renewable sources in the EU energy mix,’ the Commission argues.

‘Clean energy is the key to European Green Deal, but our increasing reliance on batteries in, for example, transport should not harm the environment,’ said Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal. ‘The new batteries regulation will help reduce the environmental and social impact of all batteries throughout their life cycle. Today’s proposal allows the EU to scale up the use and production of batteries in a safe, circular and healthy way.’

Collection and recycling

With its proposal, the Commission also aims to boost the circular economy of batteries, promoting the more efficient use of resources, and aiming to reduce the environmental impact. From July 2024, only electrically-chargeable vehicles (EV) with a carbon footprint declaration can enter the market.

To improve the collection and recycling of portable batteries, the 45% collection rate should increase to 65% in 2025, and 70% in 2030. Units from the automotive sector meanwhile have to be collected in full. This enables the recovery of valuable materials like cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead.

The use of new technology, like the battery passport and interlinked-data space, will help enable safe data sharing, increase market transparency, and make large batteries traceable throughout their life cycle.

‘This future-oriented legislative toolbox will upgrade the sustainability of batteries in each phase of their lifecycle,’ said commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. ‘Batteries are full of valuable materials and we want to ensure that no battery is lost to waste. The sustainability of batteries has to grow hand in hand with their increasing numbers on the EU market.‘

Is the automotive industry heading for PHEVgate?

As the automotive industry continues to deal with the damage dealt by Dieselgate, environmental campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E) is asking whether another perfect storm is forming around plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).

With manufacturers aiming for emissions regulations targets, low-emission vehicles are essential. So in a period of electrification, PHEVs are bridging the gap between internal combustion engines (ICEs) and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), for carmakers and consumers alike. Demand for PHEVs in the EU increased by 368.1% in Q3 2020, when compared with the same period last year. But results of a recent T&E study point to PHEVs as a bridge waiting to collapse.

‘Fake electric cars’

T&E commissioned testing of three of the most popular PHEVs sold in 2019; the BMW X5, Volvo XC60 and the Mitsubishi Outlander. The results revealed that in the real world, even when under the mildest testing conditions with a full battery, the cars’ emissions were higher than advertised. The Outlander emitted 86g/km of CO2, overshooting official WLTP values by 89%. The XC60 produced 115g/km, exceeding its official values by 62%. Meanwhile, the X5, surpassed its CO2 values by 28%, releasing 41g/km.

‘Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving,’ said Julia Poliscanova, senior director for clean vehicles at T&E. ‘Our tests show that even in optimal conditions, with a full battery, the cars pollute more than advertised. Unless you drive them softly, carbon emissions can go off the charts.’

Offizielle vs. reale Emissionen von Plug-in-Hybriden

Source: Transport and Environment

T&E estimates that once their batteries are depleted, the X5, the Outlander and the XC50 can only drive in engine mode for 11km, 19km and 23km respectively, before overshooting their official CO2 emissions per kilometre. The group argues, therefore, that PHEVs are not suited to long-distance journeys, and would require much more frequent charging than BEVs to keep their low-emissions label. 

‘Carmakers blame drivers for plug-in hybrids’ high emissions. But the truth is that most PHEVs are just not well made. They have weak electric motors, big, polluting engines, and usually can’t fast charge. The only way plug-ins are going to have a future is if we completely overhaul how we reward them in EU car CO2 tests and regulations. Otherwise, PHEVs will soon join diesel in the dustbin of history,’ she said.

Poliscanova called for governments to stop subsidising the purchasing of these cars with taxpayer money. T&E added that the EU’s current practice of handing out additional emissions credits for PHEVs needs to end when it reviews the CO2 targets for 2025 and 2030.

In defence of PHEVs

When approached by Autovista Group, the manufacturers of the XC60, X5, and Outlander came to the defence of their respective PHEVs and their emissions testing. Volvo insisted that all of its cars are certified and fully compliant with emissions legislation, but do come with a real-world caveat. ‘The existing emissions-testing regime provides a useful industry standard that allows customers to make comparisons between cars, but real-world variations will apply,’ the carmaker said.

The manufacturer said that PHEVs have close-to-zero tailpipe emissions when driven in pure electric mode and its customer field data shows that its cars are driven in pure electric mode 40% of the time on average. ‘Plug-in Hybrids are an important transitional technology on the journey towards zero-emission mobility, and an important part of the mobility portfolio of the near future,’ Volvo stated.

BMW claimed that if a customer followed the exact WLTP and NEDC legislative test profile and conditions, the published fuel economy figures would be achieved. The aim of the legislative test profile, however, is not the promise of a particular fuel economy figure in real customer life, but rather a basis to make vehicles of different brands, sizes and technologies comparable,’ the carmaker said. ‘A car with a good WLTP/NEDC figure will also convince in comparison with others in real customer life.’

BMW pointed to the potential for PHEV figures to also include a number to represent when a consumer does not charge the vehicle’s battery. ‘This might be a suitable step to increase the credibility around WLTP/NEDC and PHEV because the real-world fuel economy of a PHEV is heavily dependent on the charging state of the battery,’ BMW concluded.

Mitsubishi highlighted that their published MPG and CO2 figures are produced via standardised WLTP testing that was designed for PHEVs. ‘Independent tests can produce unreliable/variable figures depending on conditions and a variety of other factors and we naturally contest any findings where we have no oversight of the testing or methodology,’ the carmaker said. ‘Disregarding a PHEV’s electrical powertrain during testing, for example, is like testing a petrol or diesel car and only using three of its gears.’

Transitional technology

Mitsubishi pointed to a presumption that PHEV drivers do not plug in, so it shared the results of two surveys it commissioned which investigated Mitsubishi owner usage and attitudes. The data showed that 92% of Outlander owners charge up multiple times per week (at least two to three times) and that PHEV owners drive in electric mode (using no petrol) during 72.2% of their commute and 84.3% of errand and school runs. Even on long leisure runs, 32.8% of the journey was conducted in EV mode. What is more, 70% of Outlander owners surveyed would consider a fully electric vehicle as their next purchase, compared to just 27% of ICE drivers. Mitsubishi said this was indicative of the important role that PHEVs play as a transitional technology.

‘They [PHEVs] ease people into electrification, helping them to realise they actually could live with an EV day-to-day, while they also produce lower emissions overall than traditional ICE vehicles,’ the Mitsubishi said. The manufacturer explained that EVs are still too expensive for most people, with the range at the more affordable end of the model spectrum not enough for what consumers feel comfortable with.  It went on to add, ‘that’s before you factor in the charging infrastructure which is still hopelessly inadequate even for what’s on the road now, let alone mass adoption over the next decade.’

‘We are completely on board with the need to decarbonise as soon as possible, but it needs to happen in stages and plug-in hybrids can be a very useful tool in accelerating and supporting that transition, especially if incentivised and encouraged properly by the government,’ Mitsubishi concluded.

As electrification surges on, it makes sense that consumers and carmakers alike need a transitional vehicle which can endure the cross over, while initial costs are lowered and charging infrastructure is strengthened. However, it is vital that the low-emission capabilities of these vehicles is as sold, both in terms of trust and climate change. In the wake of COVID-19, the last thing the automotive industry needs is another Dieselgate.