BERLIN (Reuters) – Self-charging hybrid cars, which operate on both an internal combustion engine and a battery, outsold diesel cars in Europe for the first time in 2021, albeit by just 48 vehicles, data showed on Wednesday.
One in 11 cars sold were battery-electric, the data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed, totalling just under 880,000 vehicles.
Plug-in hybrids are powered primarily by a battery charged externally and thus seen as more environmentally friendly, but are backed up by an internal combustion engine, while battery-electric cars run on the battery alone.
A total of 1,901,239 million self-charging hybrid cars were registered in the European Union throughout the year, a significant jump from the 1.1 million registered in 2020.
Diesel registrations, which have cratered since the Dieselgate scandal in 2015, fell by a third from last year’s 2.77 million to 1,901,191.
New government subsidies for low- or zero-emission vehicles that took effect as part of pandemic recovery programmes trebled sales of plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicle sales in 2020 to over one million, with a roughly even split between the two types.
The plug-in hybrids are seen by carmakers as a technology of transition to fully-electric cars, but their green credentials have been criticised by environmental groups as studies have shown drivers rely more than hoped on the internal combustion engine over the battery, pushing up the vehicles’ emissions.
In 2021, battery-electric vehicle sales grew by 63.1% to nearly 878,500 cars, the data showed, while plug-in hybrid sales grew 70.7% to nearly 867,100.
Petrol remained the most common fuel type but by a lower margin than last year, constituting 40% of new registrations, down from 48% in 2020.
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Editing by Sarah Marsh and Mark Heinrich)