Europe’s EV-friendliest countries


Our homes, clothes, food and travel are all being revolutionised at a staggering pace to embrace the green environmental movement. Whether driven by economic, social or moral influences, all organisations – from SMEs to trans-global corporates must have a green agenda in order to safeguard the future of their business. And the planet from where it operates.

After years of complacency or ignorance, consumers are finally demanding change with the power of their purchasing decisions. Saying no to plastic. Saying yes to biodegradable. Turning their backs on meat. Refusing non-forest friendly. Switching to LED. Recycling more. Wasting less. Embracing organic. Buying EVs.

Small steps can have a big impact. And the stats speak for themselves.

In April 2019, fully electric vehicle sales soared 70 per cent year on year across Europe. Meanwhile earth-damaging diesel sales continued their fall from grace, dropping 12 per cent. Good news for planet earth and a wake-up call to fleet managers as Europe’s automotive market is slowly, but resolutely, becoming electrified.

EU regulators are pushing automakers to develop and improve their EV offering to cut CO2 emissions blamed for climate change and also reduce NOx pollutants that are choking our beautiful European cities, seas and countryside.

However, the speed of electrified vehicle adoption across Europe varies enormously – some are embracing the electric future, some are resisting it and others are just muddling through.

Who is prioritising EV development and support infrastructure? Here we look at the laggards and leaders of the electrified mobility market.


EV ambassadors are charging ahead

More full-electric cars were registered in Norway last year than anywhere else in Europe making it the world’s EV capital – although it only represents one per cent of the region’s car market.

Thanks to generous purchase subsidies and other incentives including exemption from acquisition tax and from the country’s 25 per cent value-added tax, almost every second new car in Bergen is now electric. Fees are also waived on road tolls and ferries and EV drivers can even use bus lanes. Cleaner living starts with clean air and Norway is streets ahead.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the Dutch have used business, more than individual, incentives to leverage the EV challenge including significant reductions in business taxes placed on car purchases or leases.

The UK is a major player in the surge of the electric vehicle market which is revitalising the country’s car industry. Unlike other countries, the UK government has a comprehensive strategy for electrification – the Road to Zero strategy addresses commercial vehicles, public transport and charging infrastructure. It also includes incentives to end the sale of fossil-powered vehicles by 2035. Buyers of plug-in vehicles are eligible for grants of up to 4,500 pounds and further tax advantages are available to company car drivers.

The UK currently has more than 16,000 public charging points and the government has committed a 400 million pound fund to finance an expansion of the charging network. The UK is truly putting itself on the EV only map with a zero tolerance to air pollution.   

Across the channel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron aims to increase EV sales fivefold by 2020 and plans to phase out legacy vehicles in Paris by 2030 to cut air pollution. Green drivers can enjoy a range of incentives including purchase subsidies of up to 6,000 euros for electric and hybrid vehicles, and a diesel scrappage plan that gives up to 4,000 euros for trading in an older diesel vehicle. Plug-in vehicles are also eligible for tax breaks and annual registration fees may be waived in some regions.

France has set standards high with a target of 100,000 charging stations by 2020. Breathe in that clean French air.

In Spain, the government has implemented several incentive plans including The Alternative Mobility Support Plan which was launched with a 20 million-euro budget to encourage sales of alternative-fuel vehicles. The response was fast and furious. The budget was used up in less than 24 hours! Clearly a country as passionate about its green credentials as its Rioja.


U-turn ahead

Denmark has become the latest country to propose a dramatic total ban on the sale of ICE vehicles. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said, “In just 12 years, we will prohibit the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. And in 17 years, every new car in Denmark must be an electric car or other forms of zero-emissions cars.”

The new policy represents a dramatic turnaround for Denmark, which saw EV sales plummet after the government phased out incentives in 2015. Last year, plug-in vehicle sales represented just 0.4 percent of the Danish market compared to eco warrior neighbours in Norway (39 percent).

In Germany, the EV market isn’t taking off. Chancellor Angela Merkel set a goal of having one million electrified cars by 2020 – a goal that has been staggeringly missed. There were only around 100,000 plug-ins on German roads at the end of last year. Germans have a long way to go to get on track.

Despite a 600 million euro purchase incentive set up by the Government in July 2016 – only about 100 million euros had been spent after the first two years. This reluctance to embrace EV is reflected in the number of just over 25,000 charging points across the country. Germany clearly needs to let go of its misplaced attachment to fuel-guzzling cars and learn to embrace the zeitgeist of eco vehicles.

Despite being a progressive and green destination (all Swiss trash is incinerated which produce only minimal amounts of air pollution and no landfill), Switzerland is another EV laggard. It seems their love affair with fuel hungry SUVs has thwarted the government’s efforts to meet emission reduction goals. But some love affairs are doomed from the offset and not designed to last. New, forward-thinking, selfless partnerships are the future.

Fleet managers across Europe have a tough task ahead in their commitment to introducing plug-in, fuel-out fleets of vehicles. Clearly some more than others. While some companies have strong strategic and financial backing from their governments, others are left to manage the transition with little backing.

But one thing is certain, petrol and diesel are not friends of the earth. So, all European countries need to unite and commit to the EV revolution.