Plug-in hybrid cars are forecast to outsell standard hybrids by 2019 and reach 1.2 million sales annually in Europe in 10 years. The rapid rise will come as automakers such as BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo launch more and more models that can travel emissions free at least part of the time so they can meet tougher European CO2 rules that start to take effect in 2020.
Overall European growth among conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrids was fairly sluggish last year. Sales rose 8 percent to 232,343, according to JATO Dynamics. Of that, about 40,000 were plug-ins and the rest were standard hybrids such as the gasoline-electric versions of the Toyota Auris, Yaris and Prius.
The ratio of plug-ins to conventional hybrids will reverse later in the decade, predicts analyst firm LMC Automotive. “The conventional hybrid market has stalled and the pipeline of new models is weak,” powertrain analyst Al Bedwell told Automotive News Europe. LMC predicts sales of conventional hybrids will reach 325,000 by 2021 at which time plug-in sales are forecast to be 600,000 before rising to 1.2 million by 2024.
Volvo, which plans to offer plug-in variants of all its cars, already is seeing strong demand for the technology. The Swedish automaker initially expected to make 5,000 plug-in hybrid versions of its XC90 flagship a year but recently tripled that forecast to 15,000, said Hakan Johansson, project manager for the car. Volvo says output will be increased because of stronger-than-expected global demand, especially from markets such as the Netherlands, France, the U.S. and Canada. The XC90 will be the third Volvo model to offer a plug-in hybrid variant after the V60 and S60L.