Some German cities have already accumulated sizable numbers of EVs.
Frankfurt. Photo: Matthias Konrath
Replacing ICE cars with electric vehicles is a slow process.
Just because electric vehicles are selling well doesn’t mean they constitute a large part of the overall vehicle fleet. Cars (and trucks) have a long service life. And what you see on the road is a reflection of how the auto market looked like years ago – not how it looks like right now.
So it takes years before high sales of EVs translate into a reasonably high proportion of EVs on the road.
Example: in Germany, the market share of electric vehicles (BEVs+PHEVs) exceeds 30% in some months. The share of such vehicles in the German passenger vehicle fleet, however, is more like 3%.
Just to be clear, in this article, the “vehicle fleet” means all the vehicles that are there. It has the same meaning as the term “the total number of vehicles on the road”.
3% for BEVs+PHEVs. 1.6% for BEVs only (at the end of H1 2022). But in some cities, including Frankfurt and Stuttgart, it’s considerably more than that.
Before we get to discussing Frankfurt and Stuttgart (or you can just scroll down to the part about Frankfurt and Stuttgart), an explanation why there are such disparities between different parts of Germany.
The EV share of the market does not vary that much state to state…
In the United States, it’s easy to point out which states have a high EV market share – California definitely stands out.
Compared to the United States, Germany looks like a monolith. When it comes to EV market share, differences between states are quite small.
But the EV share of the fleet varies a lot state to state
And yet, some German states have more than twice the percentage of EVs on the road (in their vehicle fleets) than others.
Maybe some states got on the EV bandwagon earlier than others? Actually, that’s not the most important reason. The real reason is something else:
The “turnover rate” of cars and SUVs varies a lot from state to state.
In some areas – especially those with thriving automotive industry, and in richer regions in general – customers treat cars and SUVs like single-use items. They buy or lease a brand new vehicle; and then, before the vehicle starts to look dated, they get rid of it and get a new one. In such areas, new car/SUV sales remain at a high level, and the existing fleet of vehicles is getting replaced quite quickly. In the state of Bavaria, 4-5% of the passenger vehicle fleet is 9 months old or less.
In other areas, customers are less likely to buy brand new vehicles. They buy used; or just keep their own vehicles longer. In the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, only 2-3% of the passenger vehicle fleet is 9 months old or less.
It’s not that people in areas like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are significantly less likely to buy electric if they go to a car showroom. It’s just that they are less likely to go to a showroom at all. Which is why it will take longer for things that are common in car showrooms – like electric vehicles – to become common on the streets too.
(Yes I know that buying an all-electric vehicle in a showroom sound like an antiquated idea; in the explanation above, “car showroom” = new vehicle market.)
Frankfurt. Photo: Epizentrum
Frankfurt, with its skyscraper-packed center, is the financial capital of Germany; it is also home to the country’s largest airport. 7.0% of passenger vehicles registered in the city are plug-in electric. 3.1% are BEVs and 3.9% are PHEVs.
That is about 24,300 vehicles (plug-in electric), about 10,800 vehicles (BEVs) and about 13,500 vehicles (PHEVs), respectively.
Stuttgart. Photo: Fanndian (edited by Pro2)
Stuttgart hosts the headquarters of both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche (the latter might be more associated with the name Zuffenhausen, but Zuffenhausen is a district of Stuttgart). 7.5% of passenger vehicles registered in the city are plug-in electric. 3.2% are BEVs and 4.2% are PHEVs. These numbers don’t seem to add up, but it’s because of rounding.
That is about 22,400 vehicles (plug-in electric), about 9,700 vehicles (BEVs) and about 12,700 vehicles (PHEVs), respectively.
Both in Frankfurt and in Stuttgart, PHEVs outnumber BEVs. In Germany as a whole, it is the other way around – the fleet of all-electric vehicles is already larger than the fleet of PHEVs.
Did I mention that areas with thriving automobile industry, or just rich areas, have a higher vehicle “turnover rate”, which causes EVs to become common on the roads more quickly? Here are the top 5 German registration circuits – all of them happen to be cities – with the highest share of electric vehicles in their fleets. One map shows the statistics for all plug-in vehicles (BEVs+PHEVs); the other one, for BEVs only.
Wiesbaden, not very far from Frankfurt, has hot springs and a large U.S. Army garrison.
Importantly, Wiesbaden is the city with the highest share of plug-in vehicles in Germany (9.2%). Also, it is the city with the highest share of BEVs (5.2%). PHEVs are 4.0%.
The idea that it’s some small spa town would be wrong. Wiesbaden has some 200,000-300,000 people and a high car ownership rate (the number of vehicles per capita is higher than the state average, and much higher than in Franfurt). A lot of vehicles and a high proportion of them being all-electric mean than the number of BEVs – that’s BEVs only – in Wiesbaden actually exceeds 10,000.
Audi’s hometown also boasts more all-electric vehicles than PHEVs.
6.5% of passenger vehicles in Ingolstadt are plug-in electric. 3.8% are BEVs, 2.7% are PHEVs.
Wolfsburg and Brunswick
Wolfsburg is a name long associated with the automotive giant Volkswagen – which might create the impression that it’s a bigger city than it really is. In fact, Wolfsburg is home to about 125,000 people. But it did not even exist as a city before 1938, when the Nazi program of mass-producing a people’s car (the Beetle) started. For a company town, it’s quite large.
Brunswick is a bigger and older city which, for historical reasons, shares its name with many places in the Americas and in Australia (kind of like the English city of York does). And yes, Volkswagen also has its facilities in Brunswick.
In Wolfsburg, 7.3% of all passenger vehicles are plug-in electric. 3.1% are BEVs, 4.2% are PHEVs.
Brunswick seems to be more BEV-oriented. 6.2% of all passenger vehicles are plug-in electric; 4.4% are BEVs, 1.8% are PHEVs.
Sources: KBA fleet data for the end of H1 2022 , KBA registration data