Top electric cars in 17 European countries (Charts)

What are the top electric cars in Norway, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, & several other European countries? Have a look at these charts to find out

It’s quite well known which electric cars see the most sales globally and in the US, but what’s the story in smaller and less-discussed European markets? That’s what I’ve been wondering for a while. Thanks to the tremendous work Jose Pontes has been doing to gather electric car sales data from around the world, I now have some answers. Below are charts I’ve put together using these data, followed in each case by my own brief commentary on the electric vehicle story in each of these 17 European countries. I hope you enjoy it!

But first, assuming it would be useful to start with some overall sales context, I will share some charts on the global electric car leaders and overall European leaders. Unfortunately, these are not 100% precise. Estimates had to be made in some cases, and some countries with low electric car sales were not included. But I think the overall results are close to reality. Here are the charts:

As you can see, the Nissan Leaf dominated sales globally in 2013. The Chevy Volt, especially thanks to strong sales in the US, was #2. The Toyota Prius Plug-in inched out the Tesla Model for #3. And not too far behind the Model S was the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in. After that, sales drop off quite a bit.

In Europe as a whole, the Nissan Leaf again took #1 in 2013. However, in this region, #2 was the Renault Zoe. The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in wasn’t far behind at #3, followed by the Volvo V60 Plug-in and then the Renault Kangoo ZE. But the results in specific European countries varied quite a bit.


Starting with the home of ABB’s headquarters, it seems that the French-speaking part of Switzerland has a strong influence on electric car sales in this country. The Renault Zoe crushed the competition in 2013 and came out far in the lead, gobbling up 25% of the electric car market. The two-seat Renault Twizy didn’t do too badly either, coming in third with 15% market share. Of course, many Swiss aren’t short of money and are happy to spend it on the slick, clean, world-renowned Tesla Model S, which split the two Renaults to come in second (16% market share). The world leader and European leader in electric car sales, the Nissan Leaf, came in at a very modest 13% market share, fourth in this country.


Heading to the other birthplace of ABB, Sweden seems to love plug-in hybrid electric cars—perhaps due to frequently driving long distances? The Volvo V60 Plug-in, which was, of course, born in Sweden, did quite well in 2013. It took 32% of the plug-in car market. The Toyota Prius Plug-in was a clear second in sales, taking 20% of the market.


France won silver in 2013 electric car sales in Europe. Of course, French models topped the sales list there. The Renault Zoe captured 37% of the market in 2013 and the Renault Kangoo ZE (an electric van) got another 28%. The Nissan Leaf took third place with 10%. Five out of the top six models were vehicles produced in France by French companies.


The top of the tables were pretty close in Portugal because, well, no offense to the small country, but not many electric cars were sold there in 2013. The Renault Twizy (the best-selling electric vehicle in Europe in 2012) came out on top in this coastal nation, with 22% of the market. The Peugeot iOn, a bit surprisingly, took silver (19%). It apparently had some fleet sales to thank for that. The steady Nissan Leaf took bronze (17%).


Following a strong price cut, the Nissan Leaf was in a league of its own in the UK in 2013. With 1,812 sales, it accounted for 48% of all electric car sales in the UK. (Note that the UK sales totals involved quite a bit of estimating—sales numbers are apparently harder to come by there.) The Toyota Prius Plug-in came in second, with 14% of sales; the Opel Ampera (aka Vauxhall Ampera) came in third, with 8% of sales; and the Renault Zoe came in third, with 7% of sales.


Austria, like Switzerland (and of course France), saw French electric car sales lead the pack. The Renault Zoe took gold, with a strong 44% of the market; and the Renault Twizy took silver, with about 11% of the market. The Nissan Leaf took bronze, also with about 11% of the market. While there weren’t many such sales, Austria also landed a few exotics—the VW XL1 (only 250 units are going to be produced in total), the Fisker Karma, the Tesla Roadster, and the Panamera S-E Hybrid.


The only country to have the small Smart Electric Drive come out on top was Germany. The two-seater took 32% of the market. The consistently high-selling Renault Zoe (15%) and Nissan Leaf (13%) took silver and bronze, while the Renault Twizy (12%) just barely failed to medal. Despite deliveries beginning just at the end of the year, the BMW i3 (8%) made it into the top five. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at #1 in 2014.


In its most comfortable position, the Nissan Leaf was back on top in Spain. However, electric car sales are more spread out there than in most countries. The Leaf took 21% of the market, while the Renault Twizy took 15%, the Renault Zoe took 14%, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV took 11%, and the Renault Fluence ZE took 10%.


The Renault Twizy had a good year in Italy, taking the top spot with 30% of electric car sales. The Nissan Leaf wasn’t too far behind at 22%. Rounding out the top five were the Renault Zoe (14%), Smart Electric Drive (11%), and Volvo V60 Plug-in (9%).


Belgium had quite the interesting sales outcome. The Volvo V60 Plug-in actually took the top spot (19% of the market), followed closely by the hot and also expensive Tesla Model S (18%), then the Nissan Leaf (17%), Renault Twizy (14%), and Renault Zoe (10%).


Similar to the story in Sweden, plug-in hybrids rule the day in neighboring Finland. Again, the Volvo V60 Plug-in came out on top, taking 36% of the market. The Toyota Prius Plug-in got silver with 25% of the market. And the Nissan Leaf got bronze with 23% of the market.


Norway, with many strong incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, is actually third in Europe in terms of electric car sales, and first in the world in terms of electric car sales per capita. Its incentives especially favor 100%-electric cars, which results in the dominance of the Nissan Leaf (53% of sales) and Tesla Model S (23% of sales). Despite just being introduced to the market, the VW e-Up! actually came in third (7%) of sales. Clearly, with 76% of sales going to two electric vehicles, the Norwegian market is much more lopsided than most.


The Leaf is on top again. In Denmark, the Leaf took 41% of the EV market, followed at quite a distance by the Tesla Model S (21%) and Renault Zoe (18%). The Renault Fluence ZE, which was recently discontinued, came in at number four with 7% and the new VW e-Up! came in at number five with 6%. Again, keep an eye on that e-Up!


The Netherlands had an insane year-end due to expiring electric vehicle incentives. In December, 23% of all car sales were actually electric car sales! The country also surged to the top of European electric car leaders. Several electric car models were rushed to the Dutch market at the end of the year, but none in such volume as the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in—a plug-in hybrid SUV. The Outlander Plug-in, with 8,343 sales, accounted for 36% of all plug-in electric car sales. The Volvo V60 Plug-in grabbed the silver, representing 26% of electric car sales (5,906). Another plug-in hybrid took the bronze—the Toyota Prius Plug-in captured 10% of sales, 2,346. And yet one more barely missed the bronze—the Opel Ampera also had about 10% of sales, 2,208. With plug-in hybrid electric vehicles doing so well in the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, it makes me wonder if there isn’t something related to height at play here.

The Tesla Model S rounded out the top five. With 1,127 deliveries (more than all electric car sales from all models in several countries), it ended up with just 5% of the market. Notably, the Nissan Leaf ranked abnormally low. It came in way down at number nine. Little love for Nissan in the Netherlands it seems.

Also worth noting is that ABB is helping to roll out the world’s largest EV fast-charging network in the Netherlands.


Going from one extreme to the other, Ireland had the smallest electric car market of any country here. There were actually more Porsche Panamera Plug-ins sold in the Netherlands (59) than all types of electric cars in Ireland (58). Nonetheless, the small country is seeing sales pick up—January 2014 sales were just a bit lower than sales in all of 2013. In 2013, one electric car ruled the day (er, year)—the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf accounted for 74% of all electric car sales.


Estonia may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of electric cars, but the small Eastern European nation was actually the first country in the world to install a nationwide network of electric vehicle fast chargers (with great help from ABB, of course). ABB won the tender for that project in January 2012. Anyway, getting to sales, the Nissan Leaf again dominated this small market. It took home 69% of the pie through its 95 sales. Two small vehicles—the Mia Electric and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV—sold 22 and 20 cars, respectively. And there was one Tesla Model S sold in Estonia in 2013.


Wrapping up this report, the small country and market of Iceland saw the Nissan Leaf lead its electric car sales in 2013. The Leaf took 40% of the market, the Toyota Prius Plug-in and Mitsubishi i-MiEV tied for second with 18% each, and the Model S took 11%.

Well, that was fun. Many more thoughts come to mind from going through all those numbers, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

Feature image credit: retinent under a cc license via flickr

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About the author

Zachary Shahan

I'm the director of the CleanTechnica and Planetsave news sites. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. I'm also the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.
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