E-Mobility, the situation in Italy and worldwide

In Norway nearly one in two cars is electric, in Italy only 0.24% of the current car fleet. The Italian market is still lagging behind its main European partners, but the buzz is growing. State of play and forecasts of the E-Mobility Report 2018 of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano

Published on 09 Nov 2018

In 2017, almost 1.2 million electric cars were sold worldwide, an increase of 57% compared to 2016. The growth is even greater when compared to 2015, when a total of 537,000 electric cars were sold. A positive trend that, according to the forecasts of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milan, should continue in 2018, with almost two million new electric vehicles expected on the market. Future forecasts are for 2 million new cars on the global market by the end of 2018. 

The same growth trend is also being recorded in Italy, but the numbers are still rather small compared to the values of the European and global markets. In 2017, in fact, in Italy 4,827 electric cars were sold (compared to 2,560 the previous year), just 0.24% of the overall number of Italian vehicles. These figures are far from Norway and Germany, with 62,000 and 55,000 registrations making them the top markets in Europe.

The E-Mobility Report 2018, produced by the Energy&Strategy Group of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano (available free of charge here), highlights the gap with more advanced countries and the obstacles that hinder the e-mobility boom. 

Electric cars are just dawning and there are still few models on the market, but their spread is gradually increasing worldwide. In countries such as Norway, for example, almost one in two cars is electric; while worldwide China is the most important market, with about 580 thousand cars sold and a growth of 72% compared to the previous year, followed by Europe (290 thousand, +39%) and the United States (200 thousand, +27%). Japan ranks fourth, but with 56,000 vehicles sold and 155% growth, is the most dynamic market.

In Italy there are almost 13,000 electric cars, 4,827 sold in 2017, 0.24% of the overall amount. The Italian market is still lagging behind its main European partners: last year it accounted for less than 2% of the European electric vehicle market, compared to 13% of the overall number of registrations. In 2017, in fact, 4,827 electric cars were sold (2,560 in the previous year), just 0.24% of the Italian vehicles (0.1% in 2016), including 1,964 full-electric (BEV, +40% compared to 2016) and 2,863 “plug in” cars (vehicles with the possibility of charging associated with a traditional engine). Plug-ins increased by 150% and for the first time exceeded BEVs.

The results for the first few months of 2018, however, show that the sector is also experiencing increasing activity in Italy: in the first half of the year, 4,129 electric cars were registered, almost as in the previous twelve months, with an increase of 89%. This growth also involved the recharging infrastructure, which at the end of 2017 included about 2,750 public recharging facilities (+750 over 2016), 16% (443) with high power, and about 1,300 recharging facilities, although the geographical distribution still appears unbalanced, with obvious differences among the areas of the country.

“Over the past year, the sector has recorded significant growth both in terms of sales volumes and infrastructure; certainly, as absolute figures, the sector is still far from the most advanced countries in Europe and globally with many difficulties to overcome, such as the still high cost of the electric car and a charging infrastructure that users regard as unsuitable and not ready to enable smart use of the electric car. All in all, the research points out that electric mobility is also becoming a key element in our approach to the future of transport in Italy.” – confirms Vittorio Chiesa, Director of the Energy&Strategy Group of Politecnico di Milano. 

One of the main obstacles to the spread of green cars in Italy is the lack of adequate government aid. 

The most important European countries in terms of registration of electric vehicles shares the same benefits in terms of incentives, aimed at purchasing, use and circulation. In Norway, for example, there are direct incentives (-25% of VAT when purchasing) and indirect incentives (free or discounted access to parking, ferries, etc.) and a tax system that penalizes the most polluting vehicles. Germany (second largest country in Europe for electric cars sold) offers a direct incentive for purchasing equal to 4,000 euros for a BEV and 3000 for a PHEV, along with France (6,000 for both, plus an additional amount if replacing an old diesel vehicle) and the United Kingdom (35% of the price).

After the end of direct state aid to purchase electric vehicles in Italy, the sole supporting measures are decided at local level and usually involve a reduction in vehicle circulation costs, such as tax rebates and free access and parking in fee-based areas. “A market governed only by a policy of incentives is not sustainable – says Vittorio Chiesa – however, a new technology is hardly competitive with those existing in the early phases. Therefore, incentives, if well dimensioned, can be a useful supporting tool”.

However, this problem is not the only one: the high cost of the cars, the inadequacy of the recharging network and the limited battery autonomy (Energy&Strategy Group survey) are worrying and hindering the purchase.

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