US overtakes Europe as 2nd largest market for electric cars

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Tesla Inc co-founder and CEO Elon Musk arrives in a modified Tesla Model X electric vehicle during an unveiling event for the Boring Co Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne. ROBYN BECK/POOL/AFP

THE US overtook Europe to become the world’s second largest market for electric cars last year, according to a report on Wednesday that accused EU carmakers of holding back sales ahead of new emissions rules.

China remained in the top spot last year with more than a million electric vehicles (EV) sold, followed by the US with 361,000 and Europe with 302,000, according to an analysis by clean energy campaign group Transport and Environment.


The Brussels-based group said Europe’s results were depressed because European car companies were delaying sales ahead of new strict EU emissions limits kicking over the next couple of years.

It pointed to the delayed launches of seven all-electric models in Europe as well as the fact that fewer new battery electric and fuel cell models were introduced last year than in 2017.

“EU carmakers have seen electric cars as a necessary evil to comply with regulation and evidence shows they’ve been suppressing supply and sales in 2018, in an attempt to protect their diesel business,” said Transport and Environment analyst Lucien Mathieu.

“Meanwhile China is racing ahead and even [US President Donald] Trump’s America has now overtaken Europe thanks to the Tesla-fuelled EV sales boom.”

The new EU emissions limits, as well as Volkswagen’s pollution-cheating “dieselgate” scandal, has caused demand for diesel-powered vehicles to plummet in Europe.

Automakers will risk being hit with heavy fines if they do not meet the more severe EU limits next year and in 2021.


Transport and Environment said the US surpassed Europe due to a 120 per cent surge in sales in the last three months of last year, while Europe had a 33 per cent rise over the same period.

But Mathieu said Europe’s electric car market was still showing positive signs for long-term growth.

“The car industry is gearing up to comply with the 2020-21 CO2 standard and will soon start boosting the sales of plug-in cars,” he said.