“There will be no decarbonization miracle with electric vehicles”

En France, sales of 100% electric cars represented only 17% of the market in April, compared to 23% in December 2023. The same slowdown was observed in several European countries, including Germany. Should we conclude that the momentum for the electric car has died down? That would be going a bit quickly.

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The volume of sales experiences cyclical fluctuations linked to public purchasing aid. When they are removed, as in Germany recently, or when the conditions for granting the bonus change, as in France, sales experience ups and downs. But this does not change the structural trends. European standards, national policies and manufacturers’ strategies are now moving in the same direction: the move towards all-electric. But at what pace will it happen?

The developments observed in Norway are instructive. In this pioneering country, the market share of 100% electric cars was 3% in 2012, but 82% in 2023, and even 92% in January. However, despite less generous purchasing aid, the diffusion curve in France follows exactly that of Norway, with a lag of seven years: in 2023, 16.8% market share in France, compared to 15.7 % in 2016 in Norway. If the trend continues, the share of electricity could increase to more than 20% in 2024, then to 30% in 2025, etc. A plausible progression since new models are now available, their autonomy is improving, prices are trending downward and the network of charging stations is increasingly dense.

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It is therefore not surprising to note that the best-selling car in Europe in 2023 is electric: the Tesla Model Y. Its price still exceeds 40,000 euros, and even 60,000 euros for the best equipped versions and the more autonomous. But we should not conclude from this that electrification only concerns high-end cars. This was a reality until recently, but it is no longer true today. This is demonstrated by the success of leasing social security (100 euros per month) proposed by the State at the start of the year. It was planned to subsidize the purchase of 25,000 vehicles during the year, but more than 50,000 were ordered in one month. The system was therefore urgently suspended due to the cost of the subsidies (more than 10,000 euros per car).

No miracle

The gradual electrification of the vehicle fleet is therefore a certainty, even if it is happening more slowly than in Norway. On this point, the general secretariat for ecological planning is cautious. In his online barometer, sales of electric cars would only represent 66% of the market share in 2030, and the vehicle fleet would only be made up of 5.4 million battery cars, or less than 15% of the fleet. The impact on CO emissions2 of car traffic will therefore be slow to materialize, which we also learn from the Norwegian case. The market share of electric cars certainly exceeds 90%, but almost 80% of the vehicle fleet is still made up of combustion engine vehicles.

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