In Europe, car rental and car sharing are getting tapped into by automakers to "move the metal." Electric vehicles may come equipped with cutting-edge technology, but when buyers balk, automakers are quick to dump them on fleets.
Electric vehicle sales have been slow to catch on in Europe, where they are even farther behind than the US. In the US, about 13,000 EVs were sold in the first quarter of this year – which comes out to about half of one percent of new vehicle sales. In Europe during the first two months of this year, 3,785 of new vehicles sold were EVs, an increase of 39 percent compared to the same period in 2012. Still, it wasn't impressive – EVs only made up 0.23 percent of market share in Western Europe during that time, according to the Automotive Industrial Data (AID) newsletter.
EVs only made up 0.23 percent of new car sales in Western Europe during Q1 of 2013.
For AID newsletter editor Peter Schmidt, carsharing ventures are providing useful "dumping grounds" for EVs that automakers can't sell. Citroen of France set up a European multi-city rental business to get people driving its C-Zero electric car. Mercedes has been building up its Car2go carsharing network, and it may be where its 6,000 electric Smart Fortwos planned for production this year end up.
Germany has been a particularly tough market to break into. Consumers can buy the Smart Fortwo ED for the equivalent of $31,000 in Germany after taxes, while the gasoline version of that car goes for about $13,500. Germany doesn't offer consumers financial incentives to buy EVs, unlike France, the UK and the US.
There's a lot of interest in how the long-awaited Renault Zoe EV will do in attracting Europeans to EVs, but it's going to take several months to see if the concept takes off. So far, it's been unimpressive. In France, there were 648 electric cars sold in February 2013. This number was increased by 440 new Zoes, which are all either dealer demonstrators or press fleet vehicles.