While sales of electric vehicles on the old continent fell slightly in June (-8%), showing that the entire automotive industry is currently suffering, things are even bleaker for plug-in hybrids. What if it was already the beginning of the end for this technology?
Declining sales in France and in the main European markets
Looking at the sales figures in detail, there is indeed reason to ask questions about PHEV cars. While registrations of zero-emission models in France have continued to rise by 28.7% year-to-date, up 4.7% in June alone (ie bucking the European trend), Sales of plug-in hybrids fell 12.5% from January to June and 25.9% last month. A quick look at the ranking of the most popular PHEVs on our territory and we see that the star of sales, the Peugeot 3008, has clearly suffered at the beginning of the year. Same disappointment for the still relatively accessible Renault Captur (accessible for a PHEV model, of course). It’s simple, these are the only electrified models that are declining in volume, “self-charging” hybrids and micro-hybrids are also up 7.2% in the first half. In addition, the volumes remain low. Only 62,811 plug-in hybrid cars were registered, compared to the 93,335 electric vehicles…or the 289,622 100% petrol thermal models sold during the same period.
The situation is very similar in other major European markets, as Automotive News Europe emphasizes. In Germany, sales fell by 16% in June. In the UK, 2 electric models are sold for every PHEV vehicle sold, while in 2019 they were neck and neck. Mayonnaise never triumphed in Spain. A worrying situation for an alternative energy that hasn’t even had time to really catch on.
Top 10 best-selling plug-in hybrid models in the first 6 months of the year in France
- Peugeot 3008: 6,461 units, -30.8%
- Peugeot 308: 3,747 copies, –
- Mercedes GLC: 3,232 units, +19.4%
- Citroën C5 Aircross: 3,231 units, -18.1%
- DS 7 Crossback: 2,282 units, -26.2%
- Hyundai Tucson: 1,983 units + 38.6%
- BMW X3: 1,884 units, +95.2%
- Renault Captur: 1,862 units, -65.3%
- MG EHS: 1,770 units, +100.5%
- Volvo XC40: 1,641 units, -39.4%
The reasons for this disillusionment are very simple. First, plug-in hybrid models have had bad press lately. There are countless studies of all kinds (like this one from Switzerland) questioning their potential ecological arguments. They have been criticized for using far too much unleaded or diesel (for the rare diesel plug-in hybrids, a Mercedes specialty) in certain situations. As our own measurements have already shown, many “plug-in” cars do not have to brag about their consumption when the battery is empty. Their heavier weight than non-rechargeable hybrids doesn’t help, and some manufacturers haven’t hesitated to use the PHEV to reduce their CO2 emissions and comply with quotas set by the EU, since the advertised, often flattering, numbers are determined by weighting Average between the empty battery consumption and the full battery consumption. Let’s not lump all car brands together: Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Renault and Toyota have proven that it is possible to launch efficient plug-in hybrid cars in all circumstances.
But also and above all The main difficulty these cars face today is that, like thermal and hybrid models, they will no longer be registered for sale in 2035. If the governments of certain states, including France, had advocated the idea of protecting at least plug-in hybrid cars, they withdrew at the last moment and approved the bill presented by the European Parliament on June 8th. Her bad reputation haunted her. Indeed, what is the point of developing a technology from now on that promises a catastrophic future? It is better for manufacturers to focus on 100% electric models and they do not hesitate to speak out on this issue to make it known. This divestment towards this technology is also felt at the state level. Example here in France, where a recent decree stipulates that the maximum CO2 bonus of €6,000 can only be granted to cars “whose carbon dioxide emission rate is equal to 0 grams per kilometer”. Before that, some plug-in hybrid cars were eligible for the Superbonus because they released less than 20g/km and fell in the same range as electric cars and benefited from their cycle. In short, water has flown under the bridge, and it’s almost certain that without necessarily going out of business, PHEVs will never follow the same growth trajectory as 100% electric again.