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Sustained boom in market for electric vehicles

Electric cars are increasingly in demand worldwide - according to an analysis, China is recording the greatest growth. 

The ID.3 is based on the Modular modular e-drive system (MEB) developed by Volkswagen. © Volkswagen

Around 830,000 new electric vehicles were registered in Germany last year. This means that there are now almost 1.9m electric cars on German roads – this is 59 % more than in the previous year. The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has researched the current figures on electromobility. 

The largest increase in the world was in China where the number of new registrations has almost doubled. This brings the number of new electric vehicles in the Middle Kingdom to 6.5m, corresponding to over 60 % of new electric car registrations worldwide. Looking at Europe, the country which really catches the eye alongside Germany is Norway. Electric cars dominate the streetscape there, with almost 25 % of all vehicles fitted with electric or plug-in hybrid drives. The proportion of new registrations in 2022 even reached around 80 %. 

“The figures show clearly that the global trend towards sustainable mobility continues unabated despite the many crises in 2022,” said Andreas Püttner (ZSW). “But if Germany wants to reach the target it has set itself, to have 15m electric vehicles on the road by the end of 2030, the country will need to see at least twice as many new vehicle registrations as in 2022 every year.” 

He cites the government incentive schemes and the relatively low prices as the reason for the growth in China. German companies like VW, BMW and Mercedes – traditionally strong in China in the combustion engine market but comparatively weak in the electric car sector – have been overwhelmed by this pace. 

Extending investment outside the premium segment

In the global ranking of new vehicle registrations, VW is in fourth place behind BYD (China), Tesla (USA) and SAIC (China). “If Germany does not want to be left behind, it is imperative that the German car manufacturers set their sights beyond the premium segment, especially since Chinese companies are gradually penetrating the non-Chinese market,” added Andreas Püttner. This is because Chinese manufacturers are catering for every demand and covering the full range, from the smallest passenger cars right through to large premium vehicles. 

This enabled them to secure a market share of around 50 % in the electric car sector in 2022. Only Tesla can keep up with the speed of this development although it too had to rely on price cuts to boost sales. The Californians still hold the leading position in the Top 10 list of vehicles sold.

Sustainability matters

There will have to be a significant drop in the price of electric cars in order to spread the technology even more widely. The biggest cost factor is still the battery. The issue of sustainability is also playing an increasingly important role in the growing market. Replacing the critical raw materials will make batteries cheaper and more efficient. This is the exact starting point of the ZSW in its research work. The aim is to increase the energy density by combining new approaches in storage materials, component parts and cell structure. 

Another goal is to bring about a significant reduction in the use of critical or strategically important raw materials like copper, cobalt, nickel and natural graphite. “By recycling batteries we are effectively closing raw materials cycles and reducing dependence on the resources of politically unstable regions in the medium to long term. We are therefore addressing several dimensions of sustainability at one and the same time,” said Peter Axmann who heads up the research into battery materials at the ZSW in Ulm.

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