Shocker: Electric Cars Are Still, Generally, a Plaything of the Wealthy

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
shocker electric cars are still generally a plaything of the wealthy

Pick your jaw up off the floor. As automakers struggle to offer electric vehicles deemed “affordable” by the motoring public, those buyers aren’t exactly swamping dealers with requests for EVs.

Even in the Europe Union, members of which punish drivers of fossil fuel-powered vehicles with high taxes, EVs amounted to just 2 percent of new vehicles registered last year. And yet the EU plans to drastically cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

New data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) shows that the EU’s green dreams will be hard to realize without some sort of massive incentive for the purchase of electric vehicles, as right now those vehicles are only marginally popular in extremely wealthy countries. The EV “people’s car” is still a dream.

The report shows an EV take rate of less than 1 percent in half of the EU’s member states. The lower a country’s per capita GDP, the lower the take rate.

Only two European countries that boast an EV market share above 5 percent are Sweden and the Netherlands. Finland clears the 3.5 percent mark. What all three countries have in common is a per capita GDP greater than $47,000. Those sub-1-percenters? They all have per capita GDPs below $32,500.

ACEA’s findings show that more than 80 percent of the EU’s electric vehicle sales originate in just six countries, all of them wealthy. On the lower income end of the scale, Latvia sold just 93 EVs last year. Poland boasts a take rate of 0.2 percent, while Slovakia and Greece barely top that, at 0.3 percent.

Automakers have miles to go before the “common man” begins snapping up electric cars in numbers large enough to satisfy the EU. And scarce, unprofitable $35,000 EV sedans are not that vehicle.

Sure, the study’s findings hardly come as a surprise, as high battery costs necessitate a vehicle with a price tag capable of recouping those additional expenses. Profitability can’t be an afterthought in a declining sales environment. Who’s fielding splashy new EVs these days? Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and other luxury brands. While companies like Nissan and Renault are still big players in the EV game, even those brands’ electrics aren’t bargain basement strippers with rock-bottom MSRPs.

If governments try to legislate away the existence of ICE-powered vehicles, they just might find themselves facing an angry, carless society. The solution, according to the ACEA, is more government intervention.

“Besides investing in charging infrastructure, governments across the EU need to put in place meaningful and sustainable incentives in order to encourage more consumers to make the switch to electric,” said ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert at a press conference in Barcelona.

“People throughout the EU should be able to consider purchasing an electric vehicle – no matter which country they live in – north or south, east or west. The affordability of the latest low- and zero-emission technologies needs to be addressed by governments as a matter of priority.”

On the manufacturing side of things, several automakers hope to achieve their goal of an affordable EV. Honda has a new EV city car on the way for European buyers, price tag unconfirmed. Volkswagen’s MEB platform, which forms the underpinnings of a massive product tsunami, will one day propel a car with a price tag in the low $20k range, VW says. The automaker has tapped its Seat brand to lead the affordable EV charge.

Meanwhile, Chinese automakers hope to capitalize on the dearth of low-priced EVs with offerings like the Geometry brand, a creation of Geely Auto Group.

With Europe struggling to make EVs a “thing,” one wonders what domestic automakers can expect when their upcoming electrics land in a market soaked in cheap gas and with no upper limit on vehicle or engine size.

[Images: Nissan, Daimler AG]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 10, 2019

    I can see it now we'll all be riding bikes to save the environment and then when there are too many bikes we will be asked to walk.

  • Roader Roader on May 12, 2019

    IMHO, the great melting pot experiment has worked. It's just that we can't add "ingredients" too fast. We had similar problems with immigrants not assimilating before, back in the late-19th/early-20th century. The solution back then was to shut immigration down for a few decades. People reminisce about the golden years for blue-collar workers in the 1950s, not realizing that the proportion of foreign born population back then was 5%, far down from 15% back in 1920, which is when we started severely restricting immigration. The problem now is that over the last few decades the proportion of foreign born population has crept back up to 15%, with all the attendant problems. It's no wonder the vast majority of Americans want to restrict immigration again, especially illegal immigration. And I think we're starting to see the effects of immigration restrictions now, with rising blue-collar wages.

  • Gray Not bad, including the price. A little worn, but it's 34 years old and looks complete and original. The 318 is one of their best workhorse engines, and is easily modifiable to 400 hp. If I needed something to drive, I'd consider it. I think those are stock wheels, btw. Fifteen inchers look tiny these days.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird One of the reasons why Mopar dropped the removal top version was that the marketing department found that few owners, maybe 20% took the trouble to unbolt and remove the heavy fiberglass roof.
  • Zerofoo The UAW understands that this is their last stand. Their future consists of largely robot assembled EVs that contain far fewer parts. Factories moving to southern "right to work" states and factories moving to the southern-most state of Mexico.I don't think lights-out auto factories are on the horizon, but UAW demands might move those automated manufacturing process timelines up.McDonalds opened a fully automated restaurant in Texas in 2022 in response to a $15/hour minimum wage demand. I'm fairly certain that at $130/hr - fully robotic car factories start to make sense.
  • Redapple2 Cherry 20 yr old Defenders are $100,000 +. Til now.
  • Analoggrotto So UAW is singling out Ford, treating them slightly better in order to motivate the entire effort. Mildly Machiavellian but this will cost them dearly in the future. The type of ill will and betrayal the Detroit-3 must be feeling right now will be the utter demise of UAW. I just hope that this tribulation is not affecting Mary Barra's total hotness.