Sales of all-electric cars finally kicking off?

A few days ago, I came across an article titled “Substantially more electric cars sold“. My first thought when reading this headline was: “Again?!”. It was only a few months ago that I looked into an increase of electric car registrations and I was not really impressed when I found out that it was all about a 1.94% increase of something with a share of 0.22%. Now we have yet another such claim.

The article is for registered users only, but this could be seen by non-registered visitor (translated from Dutch):

The sale of electric cars is finally kicking off in Belgium. A record number of 1,085 all-electric passenger cars were registered in March. This according to figures from the automobile federation Febiac.

There is also the caption of the main image (translated from Dutch):

With 810 registrations, Tesla’s first “affordable” model, Tesla Model 3, accounts for more than a third of Belgian electric car sales this year.

The big question is how significant these 1,085 car registrations actually are. The article referenced Febiac (Belgian Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Industries), so that is where I started my search. Febiac publishes monthly reports on car registrations in Belgium and my hope was to be able to breakdown the data by fuel type, allowing me to plot the evolution of all-electric car registrations over time. It didn’t take very long before I got the data from March 2019. Unfortunately, no distinction is made between fuel types, so it is not possible to extract the number of registrations of all-electric cars from the Febiac data.

I then found another list of March 2019 detailing the registrations per car manufacturer, but also here it is not possible to unambiguously distinguish between cars of different fuel-types. That didn’t me bring very far.

Febiac also linked to the Governmental Services of Mobility and Transport. I recognized that source, I also used some of their data in my January post. They keep records of monthly vehicle registration in Belgium and distinguish between several characteristics, also fuel type. But the information seemed very different from the Febiac data that I then just looked at. Febiac keeps record of de number of registrations of “passenger cars”, the governmental data has a similar, yet not identical category. Also, the breakdown by fuel-type is for all vehicles. Not only passenger cars, also trucks, buses, motorbikes and so on. It is not possible to extra all-electric passenger cars from this data.

Nevertheless, I got curious how the number of all-electric vehicles evolved over the last couple months. I was also curious whether this alleged boost in electric car registration would show in the vehicle registrations dataset. This is the evolution from January 2018 until March 2019:

Electric vehicle registration Belgium January 2018 – March 2019

There is clearly a surge in March 2019, but this is put into perspective when you look at the comparison with total vehicle registrations:

Electric vs total vehicle registration Belgium January 2018 – March 2019

There definitely was some surge in vehicle registrations in March 2019, but what caused it? In the meanwhile, I found an article with information on EV car sales in Belgium in February 2019. It also states that Tesla was the cause of this rise, but, not only in Belgium, also in other European countries like Norway, Germany and the Netherlands.

That is interesting. If the boost is also seen in other (neighboring) countries, then it might not be something regional. Why a sudden boost in those countries?

It continues:

Overall, EV sales in Belgium stand at 1,265 (up 18% year-over-year) at 2.6% market share in February. Thanks to more compelling all-electric cars, the country is now shifting from mostly PHEV sales more towards BEVs (51%).

We expect March to be the big breakout month for the Model 3 in Europe. February is a build-up month, but March should be really big for the Model 3 overseas.

To clarify, PHEV is the abbreviation of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle and BEV is the abbreviation of Battery powered Electric Vehicle (I call it all-electric vehicle in this post and previous posts).

There was also a table holding the February data (top 20 electric car registrations) and from this table it is clear that this 1,265 is the total number of electric passenger car registrations (meaning: all-electric PLUS plug-in hybrids).

That is interesting. Mathematically, if there were 1,265 electric vehicle registrations in February 2019 and 51% of those are all-electric, then there were 645 all-electric car registrations in February. A rise from 645 to 1,085 is surely substantial, but when compared to the total registrations, this number is rather insignificant.

The article also put this increase into perspective:

There is still a long way to go before we can speak of a real breakthrough for the electric car. So far, only 2% of total Belgian car sales are electric. The high price, the limited supply, the low range and the lack of charging points deter many people.

Then I found another article that gives the already familiar information, but also add a new figure (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

According to figures from the Belgian automobile federation Febiac, a record number of 1,085 purely electric passenger cars were registered in March. The rising trend started already in the beginning of 2019. From January to March, 2,196 e-cars were registered, which is more than twice as many as in the first three months of 2018. The sale of hybrid cars (a combination of a gasoline engine and electric drive) has declined.


  • the total number of registrations of passenger cars from January until March 2019 is 2,196
  • there were 645 all-electric passenger car registrations in February
  • there were 1,085 registrations in March

⇒ then follows that there were 466 registrations in January 2019.

This is how that looks like in combination with the total number of passenger car registrations from Febiac:

All-electric vs total passenger car registration Belgium January 2019 – March 2019

There is clearly a boost of all-electric car registrations, but again, in the grand scheme of things, this is insignificant.

The article also contained what seems to be the last piece of the puzzle (translated from Dutch):

The substantial increase is largely due to Tesla. After a period of delivery problems, the first cars of the “affordable” Tesla Model 3 were delivered to customers in February. A total of 810 Model 3s have already been registered. That is more than one third of the total sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in 2019 and also more than the total Tesla sales in Belgium in 2018.

Aha! Now that make sense! This is the reason for this sudden “boost” in March: after delivery problems of the Tesla model 3, now suddenly all the orders were fulfilled at once, making it a top month for electric car sales in Belgium… It also explains why other European countries experienced the same boost.

This gives rise to the question how “sustainable” that boost actually is? The suggestion of the article is that this is some kind of tipping point for all-electric cars after which these will keep rising, but if the reason for the boost is the solving of the earlier delivery problems, then this might not necessary be the case.

I am curious what passenger car registrations will do in following months. Pity I don’t know a reliable source for that data (yet). The media will not be helping either. They are reporting in a very one-sided way on this subject. They are very eager to report loud and clear on such records (however short and coincidentally these might be, without any effort to put the numbers in perspective), but are silent when the data doesn’t fit the narrative.

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