How European cities prepare for the coming EV influx


As more and more electric vehicles are hitting the streets of Europe, cities try to accommodate this new era of transportation as best they can. Some have been preparing for over a decade, others are scrambling to manage as we speak. Which European metropolitan regions top the charts, and what are they doing to make it work?

Electric driving is a two way street. To boost EV sales, it is imperative for local governments to provide an adequate EV-infrastructure and create a rewarding environment for EV-drivers. Only then can they expect a significant increase of electric vehicles in their streets. ICCT, the International Council on Clean Transportation, took a closer look at policies and actions undertaken in 22 metropolitan regions across 10 European countries. These regions had the highest relative increase in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) between 2018 and 2019.

Euro cities ev sales fig dec2020 0 1

Kingston upon Hull (UK) saw the biggest surge with an extraordinary increase of 280% EV-registrations in one year, followed by the Dutch metropolitan regions of Leeuwarden and Enschede. In Spain, Malaga and Santander also more than doubled their amount of EV registrations, while on the other side of the spectrum we see Norwegian cities like Bergen and Oslo with a more modest relative increase (though these regions were already well on track with a large share of EV’s in place.)

What is more interesting is to look at the actions these regions undertook to welcome such a surge in EV-registrations:

Expansion of public and private charging infrastructure

An interoperable and reliable charging infrastructure network has proven to be a great katalysator for EV-success. Half of the above mentioned regions increased their number of regular chargers by 30%, Gothenburg and Ghent even doubled the size of their network. The surveyed cities made charging more convenient and cost effective through a number of ways: Enschede allows residents to request a public charging station near their home for free, Malaga installed chargers in every municipal car park, while Bern, Liège and Tampere introduced new subsidies to support the installation of chargers.

Introducing local EV subsidies or incentives

National financial incentives are already present in most European markets. But it’s often extra local subsidies or incentives that prompt drivers to make the switch from fossil fuels to electric. Cities like Leeuwarden, Bern, Malaga and Marseille simply increased or introduced local subsidies while Santander introduced free parking for electric vehicles.

Electrifying municipal fleets

Besides the obvious ecological advantages of electric public transportation, the increase of visibility of municipal electric vehicles turns out to be a great stimulant for EV sales in general. Most of the above mentioned cities have taken significant steps in electrifying their public vehicle fleets. Think of electric buses (Bern, Ghent, Gothenburg, Marseille), garbage trucks (Lausanne) or even fire trucks (Linz).

Communication between city and citizens

Directly answering citizens’ questions concerning electric driving as well as outlining actions taken are an underrated step in the adoption of EV’s on a metropolitan scale. Public meetings, publications of roadmaps, concrete information via mail or e-mail are all direct ways to inform the public of changes that are afoot. Plus, an extra opportunity to promote the benefits of electric vehicles.

Planning for the implementation of zero-emission zones

Half of the surveyed cities have already implemented low-emissions zones. Some metropolitan regions are already moving to zero-emission zones in the not so far future. Bergen and Oslo for instance plan to introduce zero-emission zones by 2030.

Many signs point to continued EV market growth, not only in these metropolitan regions, but across Europe beyond 2020. Cities will play a key role regardless of federal decisions and subsidies. A sustained mix of incentives, infrastructure, fleet leadership, and long-term targets seem to be the winning strategy for now.