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The share of electric cars on Europe’s roads has tripled since the start of this year, according to new data published today by campaign group Transport & Environment. By the end of the year they will represent 10% of vehicle sales, rising to 15% by in 2021. This is up from just 2% early la

There are now 130 electric vehicle models on sale in Europe, up from just a handful two years ago. By next year one in every seven cars in Europe will be a plug-in.

The reason for the sudden increase is clear. New average fleet CO2 limits kicked in at the start of the year in the European Union, limiting emissions from passenger cars to 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This is down from the 30g CO2/km limit required from 2015 to 2019. CO2 limits were first set in 2008. Each time they have been tightened, European automakers lobbied against them. But the data shows that each time a new target came into force, cars became cleaner because the automakers had to comply.

We can see that the increase in EVs went hand in hand with the introduction of car CO2 targets,” says Lucien Mathieu, a transport and e-mobility analyst with T&E.

Automakers need to produce more electric cars in order to lower their fleet average to make up for their most polluting cars. They have also been given further incentives to make more EVs in the EU legislation, which counts EVs higher than a regular car toward meeting the fleet average.

Thanks to their new electric models, BMW, Volvo, FCA-Tesla and PSA (Peugeot Citroën) stand out as the lowest emitters and have already met the new target. Renault, Toyota-Mazda, Nissan and Ford haven’t met the target but are on track to do so. Kia, Hyundai, Daimler and Volkswagen stand out as the laggards, according to the analysis, and Jaguar Land Rover has the worst average emissions performance

By country, Sweden is in the lead with the most electric car sales, followed by Finland and the Netherlands. Cyprus, Lithuania and Greece have the lowest amount of EV sales. Volvo is selling the most EVs, while Toyota-Mazda is selling the least, according to the analysis.

No new regulation means no EVs

T&E cautions, however, that these latest numbers are both good and bad news. The good news is that it is happening. The bad news is it shows that automakers are only being incentivised to produce cleaner cars when tighter emissions limits come into force. And the next round isn’t scheduled to kick in until 2025.