13 October, 2020 Electric cars in Europe – What do consumers say/think?

Electric cars in Europe – What do consumers say/think?

A recent report from the computer and analysis company YouGov [1] has examined European consumers’ perceptions and attitudes about different powertrains in passenger cars (petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric cars). The report is based on responses from 11,400 consumers in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Covid-19 has had little effect on customer preferences for different drivelines

The data collection for the report was mainly done in January 2020. Then came the pandemic and a follow-up was done in June to find out the pandemic’s effects on customer preferences. The changes have been relatively small. Consumers considering buying a petrol car have increased marginally (35% -> 36%), the same applies to diesel cars (22% -> 24%), electric cars (25% -> 26%) and hybrid cars (30% -> 31% ). Electric cars are thus more popular (at least in consideration of buying) than diesel cars, but both hybrids and petrol cars are considered more attractive by European consumers in general. There are some differences between the countries, including when it comes to interest in electric cars and hybrids, see table [1] below:

CountryConsidering the purchase of an electric carConsidering the purchase of a hybrid
Italy29 %38 %
Germany27 %33 %
Sweden24 % 28 %
Denmark23 %24 %
France22 %28 %
Finland21 %30 %
United Kingdom14 %16%

Somewhat surprisingly, a higher proportion of consumers are considering buying electric cars in Spain compared to the electric car country of Norway. The UK stands out with little interest in both electric cars and hybrids. One weakness of the report is that there is no definition of “hybrid”, we interpret it as a hybrid, in this case, includes both non-rechargeable hybrids (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV).

Hybrids are the most recommended powertrain

Considerations to buy are a way to measure interest in the different powertrains. Another is to investigate how consumers talk to each other about different powertrains. YouGov has asked consumers whether they would recommend or not recommend the purchase of the various powertrains. In all countries except the UK and Germany, hybrids are the most recommended powertrain. The Germans and the British instead recommend petrol cars the most. Recommendations for electric cars reach the highest levels in Norway (26%) in Spain (25%) and the lowest in Sweden (7%) in Germany (- 12%). The negative value in Germany indicates that more consumers advise others to avoid buying electric cars than those who recommend purchases.

Barriers – Charging, range and cost

The classic electric car barriers are also found in this survey when asked what prevents consumers from buying an electric car, 62% of European consumers are concerned about the availability of charging, 58% for limited range and 53% for the high purchase price [2]. Here, too, there are significant differences between countries. Spaniards are most concerned about charging infrastructure  (71%), Britons for limited reach (66%) and Swedes for the high purchase price (66%).

Other aspects of concern to consumers include the cost of charging at home (32%), uncertainty about whether electric cars pay economically compared to petrol/diesel (26%) and poor supply of electric cars (24%).

Motivation to buy electric car – Environment, costs and taxes

Positive environmental aspects are the most mentioned reason (51%) to buy electric cars among European consumers. However, only 6% are motivated by helping the environment. Opportunities for lower car costs are important incentives for consumers, 31% report lower service and energy costs and 27% lower taxes as reasons to buy electric cars.

29% also believe that the purchase of electric cars is a way to future-proof against a possible decline in petrol and diesel cars.

European opposites – Germany and Norway

The report contains two case reports: Germany and Norway.

Germany, Europe’s largest car market,

has a penchant for petrol cars, which is manifested in a high proportion of petrol cars in the total car fleet (78% vs 65% for the rest of Europe) and a larger proportion of car buyers considering buying a petrol car (55% vs 35% for the rest of Europe). The share of electric cars in the total car fleet is 2%. Germans are more negative about electric cars than other countries in comparison, for example,  27% say that there is no reason to buy an electric car. Opposition to electric cars is greatest among older German consumers, but even in the 25-34 age group, negative recommendations (advice against buying an electric car) are also considering negative recommendations (advice against buying an electric car). The report authors speculate that the threat posed by electrification to the German car industry may explain why German consumers/workers are sceptical about electric cars.

Norway differs markedly from Germany.

Electric cars make up 18% of the car fleet and consumers are much more in favour of electric cars, for example,  this can be seen through the highest proportion of positive recommendations (26%) countries in the report. The report’s deep dive into Norway’s electric car owners is interesting. Norwegian electric car owners rank the various economic factors of electric cars as more important motives for purchase compared to electric car owners in the rest of Europe. This includes low operating costs (65% vs. 42%), low taxes (42% vs. 32%) and affordability (34% vs. 16%). In the category of funny electric car information, it can also be noted that Norwegian electric car owners eat healthier food and are sportier than Norwegian petrol/diesel car owners. It should also be added that electric car owners in Norway are more active on social media and that they watch less TV compared to the petrol/diesel car owners.


[1] The European Electric Car Market. YouGov. Sep 2020.

Written by Jens Hagman, omEV, translated and edited by Christian Pfäffli, rechargier. 

We recommend also you to read this previously released post What has happened in the global market for rechargeable cars in 2020?

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