In Europe, car rental and car sharing are getting tapped into by automakers to "move the metal." Electric vehicles may come equipped with cutting-edge technology, but when buyers balk, automakers are quick to dump them on fleets.

EVs only made up 0.23 percent of new car sales in Western Europe during Q1 of 2013.

Electric vehicle sales have been slow to catch on in Europe, where they are even farther behind than the US. In the US, about 13,000 EVs were sold in the first quarter of this year – which comes out to about half of one percent of new vehicle sales. In Europe during the first two months of this year, 3,785 of new vehicles sold were EVs, an increase of 39 percent compared to the same period in 2012. Still, it wasn't impressive – EVs only made up 0.23 percent of market share in Western Europe during that time, according to the Automotive Industrial Data (AID) newsletter.

For AID newsletter editor Peter Schmidt, carsharing ventures are providing useful "dumping grounds" for EVs that automakers can't sell. Citroen of France set up a European multi-city rental business to get people driving its C-Zero electric car. Mercedes has been building up its Car2go carsharing network, and it may be where its 6,000 electric Smart Fortwos planned for production this year end up.

Germany has been a particularly tough market to break into. Consumers can buy the Smart Fortwo ED for the equivalent of $31,000 in Germany after taxes, while the gasoline version of that car goes for about $13,500. Germany doesn't offer consumers financial incentives to buy EVs, unlike France, the UK and the US.

There's a lot of interest in how the long-awaited Renault Zoe EV will do in attracting Europeans to EVs, but it's going to take several months to see if the concept takes off. So far, it's been unimpressive. In France, there were 648 electric cars sold in February 2013. This number was increased by 440 new Zoes, which are all either dealer demonstrators or press fleet vehicles.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Europeans need to start creating carrots (incentives) and sticks (laws) to get Apartment and flat owners to start installing chargers for the tenants.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      There is a lot of good deal and practicallity in urban transport in europe like metro, buses and trains and the distances are shorter so folks that do not want to pay a high prices take urban transports. In america peoples rely more on their personnal cars then anything else as a lot of the peoples live in subburn instead of in the city. Lot of folks in european city do not have a personnal parking to recharge their car in the night, they park on the streets or on common parking. In usa lot of people have a private parking to recharge.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Yes, with the help of Europeans on this board and others, I think the biggest issue is "Lot of folks in european city do not have a personnal parking to recharge their car in the night, they park on the streets or on common parking." An EV is pretty much useless without a dedicated night-time parking with a charger.
      Anderlan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Finally, something I as an American can rag on Europeans about! Europeans, how the heck aren't you buying more EVs, given that petrol is like 2x to 8x more expensive than here? I mean, I know power is higher, too. But the delta between power and petrol is higher, right? And even if the delta is really that low, solar is the same price or lower, and the feed-ins are better, if you have any sky-space whatsoever. SO WHAT GIVES, EU PPL?
        Actionable Mango
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Anderlan
        Superior mass transit enabled by triple the population density, plus cities developed long before cars means that Europeans concerned about the price of fuel in either Euros or CO2 can simply hop on the train or subway.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      "carsharing ventures are providing useful "dumping grounds" for EVs that automakers can't sell. " Do the car sharing companies get to benefit from the government incentives? If so, it's a great deal for them.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        Yeah. All the places in Europe where there are incentives, there aren't in Germany, AFAIK do it as a straight POS discount, no messing around reclaiming taxes etc.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        As a parallel note, San Diego car2go uses Smart EDs. They appear to own about one hundred. They'll likely be a major portion of the purchases for the new Smart ED too.
      Kimmi
      • 2 Years Ago
      EV's grew 39% in a shrinking market...Yeah, that's a bad performance. Talk about a biased point of view!
      spacycake
      • 2 Years Ago
      What is the Energiewende? In many people's mind it's just replacing nuclear with renewables. Period. Coal? Hmm, maybe we need it for some time because we abandon nuclear. Transport? That's something completely different. Cars need gasoline or diesel, don't they? Many many cars have stickers with anti nuclear slogans - ice cars, even luxury cars and SUVs. The German Energiewende is very much an anti-nuclear thing, not anti fossil fuel (for most people at least). That's why EVs are not a logical consequence of the Energiewende. But it's true that people with a business in the solar or wind industry are very interested in EVs plus local utilities managers, but that's just a very small friction of the population.
      spacycake
      • 2 Years Ago
      There are less enthusiasts, less people (not only) interested in new technology here in Europe. Less people want to make a statement, esp. the Germans who stick to their conservative brands. And those concerned about the environment, by the way, often just do not own any car. Look at Berlin e.g. - only 300 cars per 1000 inhabitants, and it's getting less.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @spacycake
        That is a bit odd considering that Germany has gone crazy with its Energiewende that has brought massive amounts of solar PV and wind power online. Well, now it is time to use that clean green electricity to replace your cars! But of course, traveling on electrified public transportation may be even more efficient. But getting lots of EVs would be a nice complement to their Energiewende system. The EVs will provide a place to soak up the excess power generated when all those PV panels are creating more electricity than the need.
          spacycake
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          And I do not think the German grid is impressively clean. 23 per cent renewables is not bad but countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Greece have made much more progress recently (e.g). Portugal with it's boost to 64 per cent in Q1). Germany just produced bigger headlines because of the nuclear flip flop (exit, no exit, exit) and the promotion of solar energy.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I guess that is why there is a one year waiting list in Europe if you want to buy a Smart Fortwo ED.... Also, we are in April, we know the sales numbers for March: 1089 Zoe were sold in France in March.
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