Defining the EV landscape
Electric vehicle adoption is finally increasing across the world at a rapid pace, but one question remains: could we have accelerated that growth through smarter and more aggressive policies? We reviewed all of the current, and some old favourite, electric vehicle policies across Europe that have driven adoption by influencing new car sales, EV charging infrastructure, and innovations in energy.
With that in mind, we concocted an imaginary country that was unimpeded by budgets, politics, or logistics. What would such a country do? Which EV policy would they implement to drive the highest EV adoption rates and a greener approach to personal transport? In honour of World EV Day we have imagined a country that learned from its peers and implemented best-in-class EV policies from all across Europe - EVland.
Banning ICE vehicles
Most European nations are still dependent on ICE vehicles, so picking a date to phase out new ICE vehicles is a critical first step. Norway has set a commitment to ban the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2025, ten years ahead of the EU’s target of 2035, and it has stuck to that commitment. As of January 2022 84% of new vehicles sold in Norway were EVs, meaning the country is well on track to meet targets and has achieved a strong uptake in zero emission vehicles.
New ICE vehicle bans also start a clear ticking clock for vehicle manufacturers to introduce new and appealing EVs into EVland and reduce their dependency on the combustion engine. Volkswagen have already stated that they will only sell electric vehicles in Norway from 2024 - and we can assume they’d do the same in EVland. IEA analysis shows that there is a correlation between share of EVs in new car sales, and the amount of EV models available in the market - meaning the more electric vehicles are sold, the more become available - a win win for EVland drivers and car makers alike!
Making electric vehicles cheaper
One of the main concerns for non-EV drivers is cost. EVs and zero emission vehicles are more expensive to purchase than an equivalent ICE vehicle. EVland needs to find a way to incentivise its citizens to buy an EV and bring their upfront cost down closer to the price of an ICE vehicle. Borrowing with pride from France, EVland citizens can get up to €6000 towards the cost of a new EV under €45,000 in value (€3000 for EVs worth €45,000+). They’ll also provide up to €5000 for drivers trading in an older ICE vehicle for their new EV, taking plenty of old petrol/diesel vehicles out of use and down to the scrapyard. 341,000 french households had applied for the scrappage grant in 2019, which is a lot of gas guzzlers off the streets!
Financing an EV
Not everyone can afford to purchase an EV up front, even with France’s amazing subsidies, so financing is a great way to spread the cost over low monthly payments. Scotland is the only nation in Europe that provides interest free loans to purchase an EV or electric bike. Applicants can secure a loan against a new or used EV purchased from a dealership and the loan is paid back over a 5 year period with zero interest accrued. By 2022, Scotland had paid out over £165million in loans to get 6100 electric vehicles on the road. Introducing this EV policy in EVland will make zero emission vehicles more accessible to citizens who wouldn’t otherwise have the funds.
Tax cutting EV policy
Another scheme to reduce the total cost of owning an EV can be found in our home country of Denmark (we’re not biased we swear!). As part of the Finance Act, charge point operators in Denmark can reimburse around 0.94DKK per kWh (around €0.13 per kWh) back to EV owners until 2030. This guarantees almost a decade of subsidised charging for Danish EV drivers, making petrol/diesel seem even more expensive in comparison. As electricity prices continue to rise across Europe, Danish EV drivers are secure in the knowledge that their charging is cheaper. Additionally, from 2023 onwards, workplace charging will also be completely tax free. Which should incentivise workplaces to provide electric vehicles as a benefit and/or switch their fleet to zero emission vehicles
Denmark is a prime market to understand how government policies affect market trends. In 2015 when the government announced plans to taper off EV subsidies by 2022, Denmark saw a huge reduction in EV adoption and between 2016 and 2017 EV ownership in Denmark remained flat. Now that the subsidies have been introduced, EV adoption is rising, but according to Laerke Flader, head of the Danish Car Alliance, this flip flopping in EV policy has resulted in car manufacturers investing in other countries due to Denmark’s market instabilities. Consistency is key!
Residential EV charging infrastructure
To incentivise residential charging infrastructure, we’ll take inspiration from Germany who currently offer a whopping €900 towards the cost of purchasing and installing an EV charger (or wallbox as the Germans tend to say!) at home. To secure the grant, applicants must submit a plan for the work, gain approval, and then the grant is paid out post-installation. Some states in Germany provide even further subsidies - such as the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen which tops up the subsidy to €1500 if the charge point is connected to a renewable energy source like solar panels. This means that EVs in the state are operating from new sources of renewable electricity, and are therefore causing less additional strain to the national grid and maintaining a healthy electricity economy.
Commercial EV charging infrastructure
Encouraging private companies, housing associations, and local authorities to install charge points is important in building out a strong network for charging EVs. In Austria, the government provides a subsidy of up to €30,000 for companies, municipalities, and associations to install publicly accessible fast charging stations. While it's still too early to see how impactful this EV policy has been (it came into force February 2022), EV sales surpassed diesel sales in Austria for the first time in September 2021, so Austria is clearly hopeful this policy will keep them heading in the right direction and get more Austrians driving EVs.
Public EV charging stations
Range anxiety always ranks as one of the top concerns when drivers consider purchasing an electric vehicle. 50% of non-EV drivers associate driving an electric vehicle with searching for charging stations. So a strong and reliable public charging station network is necessary to encourage EV adoption. The Netherlands takes up 0.8% of Europe’s landmass, but holds 29.4% of the charging stations (90k charging stations). Which amounts to 47.5 charging stations per 100km of road. One of the targets set by The EU Commission was that member states reach 10 electric light-duty vehicles (LDVs) per public charger by 2020 - the Netherlands is at 5 EVs per public charger currently based on IEA analysis. When looking at building a public EV charging network, the Netherlands is the gold standard.
Investment in clean energy and grid balancing
The truth is, you can’t run a nation of EVs without a strong and stable electricity network with a plentiful supply of renewable energy. EVland can look back to Norway for inspiration on energy management. Norway currently uses 98% renewable energy - which is mostly sourced from hydropower. While Norway has historically been against on-shore wind, in April 2022 licensing reopened to harness Norway’s wind power. It’s hard to deny that Norway is a huge exporter of natural gas and oil, but Norway is investing in carbon capture technology, hydrogen, and a long term energy policy that creates value so the economy is less reliant on natural resources. Norway has an ambition to lower the overall energy intensity of the economy by 30% between 2015 and 2030 with schemes to cut energy consumption currently in the works. EVland could do with an efficient, renewable focused grid to support the transition to zero emission vehicles.
Innovating with zero emission technology
Finally, EVland needs to look outside of government policy and look to attract and encourage tech companies that will innovate and explore new EV and energy technologies. The UK has historically encouraged innovation with projects like Project Sciurus - the world’s largest domestic vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trial and now Indra’s vehicle-to-home trial (V2H), both of which aim to balance the grid and even out peaks and troughs. In transitioning to a zero emission transport system, it’s important to create a healthy network to support EVs as they plug in. Investing in future advancements is integral to support a healthy EV ecosystem for EVland.
An electric vehicle utopia
So EVland has taken learnings from Norway, Scotland, France, Austria, Denmark, the UK, and Germany - but what would that look like in reality? With all the policies listed above, EVland would be a nation well on the way to removing ICE vehicles from the road. With all citizens, no matter their socio-economic status, having an affordable option to purchase their own EV. With access to a home or a public charger that uses affordable, renewable energy from a grid that is stable and healthy. An electric vehicle utopia!
While EVland might be a dream, given the political and fiscal roadblocks that remain in the real world, it’s important to understand what great EV policies can do and ask the question - which country’s policy mix is doing the best job of promoting the electric transition?