"European countries are struggling to persuade people to switch from combustion
engine cars to electric ones, experts warn.
Europe sells 10 times more electric cars today than it did just six years ago,
according to the International Energy Agency, but its fleet is cleaning up too
slowly to meet its climate goals. Governments across the continent are
struggling with the price-tag of electric vehicles, which can cost several
thousand euros more upfront than comparable ones that burn fossil fuels.
“What we have learned is that it’s not enough just to incentivise electric
vehicle purchase and ownership,” said Julia Poliscanova, an analyst at campaign
group Transport and Environment. “You also have to disincentivise the purchase
of conventional cars at the same time.”
The EU’s move to cleaner cars is part of its promise to cut planet-heating
pollution 65% from 1990 levels by the end of the decade, and hit net zero by
2045. But even as it has slashed emissions in its power sector, putting up wind
turbines and shutting down coal plants, emissions from road transport have
risen steadily in the background.
Transport was the “problem child” of climate protection, said Christian
Hochfeld, head of Agora Verkehrswende, a clean transport thinktank in Germany.
Because most alternatives to cars took time and money to build, the full switch
to electric vehicles was “the most critical issue” for reducing emissions in
the next decade, he said.
The EU plans to bring car emissions down by 55% from 2021 levels by the end of
the decade, and to zero by 2035. But customers are put off by the high upfront
price of electric cars, even if they pay off in the future through lower
To help counter this, countries across Europe offer customers financial
incentives to buy cleaner cars. According to the European Automobile
Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), 21 of the 27 EU member states offer tax
breaks when buying a low-carbon car, while 20 offer money to help with the
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