Monday, 12 february 2018 | Redacción CEU
Electric cars and hybrids are revealed as the bet for the automobile future on the continent but, although the number of registrations does not stop increasing, its volume in Europe is still far from reaching the one of vehicles that use the star fuel, which now is gasoline. Drivers have not been confused when refueling their cars, nor the experts when publishing the figures. The 50% of Europeans bet on this fuel. Diesel loses its privileged position in the market. What are the reasons? Has the ecological awareness of Europeans increased? Why do they choose gasoline instead of other alternatives?
The gasoline cars sale has reached half of the European automotive market according to the data offered by the consultancy Jato. This represents a growth of 10.9% of the fuel in the continent and it has materialized in a total amount of 760,000 units. Gasoline vehicles have managed to capitalize on the loss of the market share of diesel cars, which represented 7.9% last year, the lowest figure in a decade. Diesel is no longer the first choice for Europeans. Europe prefers gasoline.
This trend is also noticed in Spain. This country is one of the estates where the penetration of diesel was higher, but it has also experienced the loss of its fuel leadership in the sector. The privileged position of diesel in the country is disappearing in favor of the gasoline cars sale. In January, this represented 51.7% of the total registrations, almost 10 points more than diesel, which constitutes 41.8% according to the last monthly balance made by the associations Anfac, Ganvam and Faconauto. The Spanish dieselization loses strength and the change of mentality although slow, is notorious. If we compare these data with the ones from January in 2017, there is an increase of 33% in the purchase of cars with gasoline engines by individuals, a 24% by car rental companies.
Although there have been many factors that have impacted in this decline in sales of diesel cars, it is inevitable to associate to its fall, in part, the scandal generated by the alteration in the measurements of pollutant gases in diesel engines, the known "dieselgate", which has gathered so many headlines in press. This case has affected consumers, in the decline on demand for this type of cars and the increase of their skepticism, and carmakers, which no longer bet with the same strength for the fuel and prefer to focus in the electric cars push. However, there are also other reasons that have led to the diesel decline in the European ranking.
During the last few years, the studies on the harmful effects of gases emitted by diesel engines have multiplied. The European Environment Agency itself has warned for years about the consequences of the premature death of thousands of people in the continent due to air pollution. In 2012, the World Health Organization declared that the gases generated by the combustion of diesel engines could cause cancer, these were included in the same category as arsenic, asbestos and mustard gas. Europe has gone from promoting diesel vehicles, which came to represent 70% of the European fleet, to legislating about the emissions reduction. In fact, the European Commission aims to reduce the 40% of greenhouse gases in 2030.
The biggest European cities are committed to plans for freeing cities from cars, reducing and even prohibiting the circulation of diesel cars on their roads. In Paris, diesel cars will not be able to circulate in the city in 2020. In many German cities people cannot drive to downtown if they do it on board of a diesel vehicle. Norway is one of the most restrictive countries. In 2025, the country plans to ban both diesel and petrol cars. Other cities like Athens, London and Madrid also develop legislations that favor the progressive disuse of the cars that circulate thanks to this fuel.
Although 15.57 million cars were registered in Europe in 2017 –3.1% more than the past year according to the Jato consultancy–, many experts point out the effect that Brexit has had on the automotive industry and, in particular, in the decrease on the diesel vehicles purchase. The uncertainty in the market, the inflation and the consumer concerns about a possible increase in taxes on diesel could have caused the decline on the diesel cars sale in the country and the resulting push of the gasoline cars sale.
Carmakers are betting on hybrid and electric vehicles. They work on the design of new prototypes with greater autonomy and in order to expand their rangest in detriment of the manufacture of diesel cars. Governments are also betting on the promotion of these alternative vehicles. In Spain, an example of this is the Movalt plan. However, these alternative cars in Europe have only reached a market share of 4.8%, according to Jato. This is a remarkable growth, representing 46% compared to the previous year, but still very small in relation to the total volume of the European automobile market.
The high price, the limitations in the autonomy or the scarcity of recharging points are issues that keep throwing back many European buyers. Although the figures reveal that there is a change of trend and mentality in the drivers of the continent and a higher eco-awareness, these have not materialized in a fast transition to the electric model. Changing overnight a mobility model that is so established is not only difficult, but impossible –although it is also necessary in environmental terms–. The diesel decline is progressive and although it seems that it can be replaced by gasoline, most experts agree that this is a temporary turnaround. Gasoline cars will also suffer the consequences of legislative restrictions and, slowly, although progressively, will end up being replaced by plug-in hybrids first and electric then.
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