Fuelling Europe: Is the UK doing enough to lead the electric car revolution?


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Find out which is the most green country in Europe and which country loves a gas guzzler

alternative fuel vehicles
  • Petrol still number one fuel in UK...just
  • Ireland has the highest percentage of diesel cars in Europe
  • Norway is leading the way in Electric & Hybrid car usage in Europe
  • Italy leading the way in LPG usage in Europe but lacking behind in Electric cars.

Petrol is undoubtedly still the number one fuel type on UK roads. 

But while the UK government’s announcement to ban diesels by 2040 was put forward quite early, the date is a long way off compared to some of our European neighbours who are stepping up the pace in the race to go green.

A landmark court ruling last week (27 February 2018) saw German cities granted permission to ban older diesel. Our interactive fuel map shows Germany has the smallest share of cars which don’t run on petrol or diesel – small wonder considering it’s the source of Europe’s highest levels of CO2 emissions.

But with cars accounting for 11% of Germany’s overall exports, the onus is on them to set the pace for Europe’s move towards cleaner, more affordable cars, and last week’s announcement is certainly a step in the right direction.

Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have all pledged to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to ban new diesel cars as soon as next year.

And hot on Germany’s heels last week was Rome; the city said it will ban diesel cars from the Italian capital by 2024. Our fuel map shows Italy really is flying the flag for greener cars – they’re leading the way in LPG usage across Europe, but still have plenty of room to grow electric car usage.

Is the UK doing enough to lead the way in alternative fuel vehicles?

While petrol is still the most popular choice of fuel in the UK, diesel is a close second (49% vs 47.7% respectively). Electric cars accounted for just 1.4% of new car registrations last year.

Looking at our fuel map, Kate Martin Bruintjes, director of Green Unlimited, tweeted: “I think we can be a lot more ambitious in the UK - our 2040 ban on sale of petrol and diesel cars isn't that ground-breaking #ElectricVehicles #decarbonisation

Mark Tebbutt, an early electric car adopter, thinks the arrival of more affordable, 200-mile range EVs next year will help propel Britain’s eco credentials.

“The UK’s ambition to ban all diesel cars by 2040 is now irrelevant, “ said the 44-year-old, “that date is so far in the future, the market will change so much that we’ll have to be quicker.

“The Committee on Climate Change says 60% of new cars have to be electric by 2030 – that’s every three out of five cars – so I think we’ll beat the 2040 date by 10 years.

“The affordable 200 mile cars will be available next year with more to come in 2020.”

Mr Tebbutt, who lives in Chorley, has been driving electric cars for seven years and took delivery of the third Nissan Leaf to hit the UK market.

He pays around 1p per mile with his Leaf; he has a low electricity tariff at home and free charging at work. In a bid to get more drivers converting to electric, Mark believes we need better promotion of the advantages of going electric - such as “super low running costs”.

“BP and Shell are installing rapid chargers at petrol stations and real-world, affordable 200-mile EVs arrive next year – this should see sales pick up sharply as diesel declines.”

What fuels Europe’s cars?

Discussing our fuel map, Jason Lloyd, Managing Director at PetrolPrices.com, said: “The fuel type usage report provided by Admiral is a very valuable tool showing fuel usage patterns across Western Europe and throws up some really interesting insights.

“As expected, petrol remains the most used fuel type closely followed by diesel, however it is surprising that diesel fuel type usage appears to lower than the expected rate in the United Kingdom and Germany, (where diesel is cheaper than petrol) probably due to the recent diesel emissions scandal.

“The growth of electric and hybrid in less than three years is nothing short of phenomenal, with Norway being the 'greenest' country and leader in electric and hybrid usage with five times as much as nearest rival Sweden. Finally Italy is showing a surprisingly high LGP/HGV fuel usage figure, 16 times more than any other country in Western Europe.”

Ireland topped the board with the highest percentage of diesel cars in Europe, with many Twitter comments pointing towards the difference in costs at the fuel pumps.

Peter Robinson (@peatmossis) said: “Petrol in the ROI is nearly €0.10 per litre more expensive than diesel. Ridiculous difference!”

While stephenk75 blamed the lack of public transport in Ireland: “Can simply be explained by the lack of public transport sufficient for most of the country to take advantage of therefore having to travel in a car and in doing so obviously wanting the most efficient one and that which gives most value at the pumps per trip.

If you’re thinking about making the switch, check out our article Should I buy a hybrid or electric car?

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