Sales of alternative fuel vehicles continue to rise in Europe.
The number of battery powered, fuel-cell and rechargeable hybrid cars rose by a combined 206,000 last year for the EU and European Free Trade Area.
Plug-in hybrid technology was most popular with nearly 113,000 vehicles registered – a 17.2 percent increase on 2015.
However, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said that in the final three months of last year there was a fall in registrations of those plug-in cars year-on-year of 10.6 percent, which was explained by exceptional demand in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Sales of hybrids and so-called mild hybrids increased by 28.8 percent to 303,506 cars last year and at a similar rate in the fourth quarter. Those are vehicles that combine fossil fuel and electrical power to some degree but are not rechargeable.
Daimler will build electric cars in existing Mercedes plants https://t.co/g4GP8uTAfC— AutoNews Europe (@AutoNewsEurope) February 1, 2017
Many in the auto industry believe electric cars will pick up critical momentum in 2017.
Industry executives who were in Detroit recently for the North American International Auto Show said tighter emissions rules in China and Europe will leave global carmakers and some consumers with little choice but to embrace plug-in vehicles.
That is set to fuel a surge in investment.
“Car electrification is an irreversible trend,” said Jacques Aschenbroich, chief executive of auto supplier Valeo, which has expanded sales by 50 percent in five years with a focus on electric, hybrid, connected and self-driving cars.
In Europe, green cars benefit increasingly from subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives, while the owners of those with combustion engines face mounting penalties including driving and parking restrictions.
China, struggling with catastrophic pollution levels in major cities, is aggressively pushing plug-in vehicles.
Electric vehicles Trumped in the USA
There is a more bumpy road predicted for electric vehicles in the United States.
Regulators in California and a group of other US states are pushing ahead with state-level rules mandating rising quotas for electric, or ‘zero emission’ vehicles.
But plug-in registrations in the United States fell in 2015, and the market share of electric-only vehicles declined further to 0.37 percent in 2016, as cheap fuel drove demand for gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to roll back environmental and climate rules. Groups representing car manufacturers asked Trump to review Obama administration fuel economy targets out to 2025, even before the outgoing administration formally signed them into effect.
Wondering whether electric cars will survive or die under Trump? Check out my latest blog for
UCSUSA</a>! <a href="https://t.co/I3y4XhncUN">https://t.co/I3y4XhncUN</a></p>— Josh Goldman (JoshGoldmanUCS) January 30, 2017
Infrastructure is key
To drive the shift to electric, industry executives said they needed more help from governments.
In China, Europe and the United States, automakers are advocating new infrastructure money go to public electric car charging networks.
Shell to install battery chargers on Europe forecourts https://t.co/LXUMR5Mgog— FT Energy (@ftenergy) January 29, 2017
In the United States, electric vehicle manufacturers are pushing for the continuation of a $7,500 (6,970 euro) federal tax subsidy for consumers who buy a fully electric car. Even if Trump were to try to eliminate it, it would take time as the US Congress would have to act.
“There is not a disagreement that the world is going electric,” California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show, noting that all vehicle makers were now investing in electric models across their entire product lines. The debate, she said, was “over timing, not the goal”.