In 2021, hybrid electric vehicles accounted for 19.6% of all new passenger cars registered across the EU, compared to 11.9% in 2020. Electrically-chargeable vehicles also saw a strong increase in sales, making up 18.0% of total car registrations, up from a 10.5% share in 2020.

The overall contraction of the EU car market affected both diesel- and petrol-powered vehicles negatively. However, conventional fuel types still dominated EU car sales in terms of market share in 2021, accounting for 59.6% of all new registrations, according to ACEA’s figures.

Petrol and diesel cars

From October to December 2021, registrations of both petrol and diesel cars posted double-digit drops in the European Union. Sales of petrol fell by 33.5% to 778,450 units, with nearly all EU markets recording declines, except for Bulgaria, Ireland and Slovenia. Consequently, petrol’s share of the car market shrank from 40.6% in the last quarter of 2020 to 35.8% during the same period in 2021.

Diesel saw an even stronger drop (-50.9%) going from 729,446 units in 2020 to 358,083 units in the last quarter of 2021, as nearly all member states recorded significant decreases, except for Bulgaria. As a result, diesel’s share of the EU car market fell from 25.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 16.5% last year. Overall in 2021, petrol still remained the fuel type with by far the largest market share (40.0%).

Alternatively-powered vehicles (APV)

During the last quarter of 2021, battery electric vehicles (BEV) saw the strongest growth (+24.9%) of all fuel types, totalling 309,598 units across the EU. This growth was modest compared to 2020, but it should be noted that 2020’s surge in BEVs (+216.9%) was largely driven by government stimuli for low- and zero-emission vehicles introduced in the wake of the pandemic. Sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), on the other hand, contracted by 1.8% in the fourth quarter.

Looking at full-year results, PHEV registrations increased by 70.7% from 507,917 units in 2020 to 867,092 last year. Battery electric vehicles posted similar growth (+63.1%) throughout 2021, going from 538,734 to 878,432 cars sold.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) recorded a modest increase (+0.4%) in the last three months of the year. With 439,172 units sold, hybrids accounted for 20.2% of the EU car market in the fourth quarter. Throughout 2021, registrations of hybrid electric cars increased by an impressive 60.5%, marking the first time that HEV sales (with 1,901,239 units) overtook those of diesel (1,901,191) in the European Union.

Demand for natural gas vehicles (NGV) in the EU saw a significant drop during the last three months of 2021 (-45.9%), mainly the result of falling sales in Italy (-40.6%). By contrast, the market for LPG-fuelled cars saw a modest increase of 5.7%, counting 59,959 units sold across the region during the same period.

Alternatively-powered vehicles (APV) accounted for almost half (47.8%) of the EU car market from October to December 2021, with over a million units registered in total. Looking at the performance of the major BEV markets in the last quarter, France posted the largest gain (+36.2%), followed by Italy (+34.9%) and Germany (+24.5%).