We Must Electrify Our Mobility to Safeguard the Automotive Industry

Pedro Fresco

6 mins - 25 de Septiembre de 2023, 12:40

A few days ago, Renault’s CEO Luca de Meo told a group of journalists that they were studying electric vehicle production at the Palencia and Valladolid factories but that they had to be cautious because of the market share of electric vehicles in Spain. “There are no Spaniards buying electric vehicles,” said De Meo.

The Renault CEO’s words should alert us to our weaknesses and how to address them. At a time when countries are fighting to attract industrial capacity of electric models, the market share within the country itself becomes a parameter which must be taken into account. Despite the fact that more than 80% of the vehicles manufactured in Spain are exported outside the country, essentially to the rest of Europe, the local market continues to play an important role in investment decisions. Spain has energy security and more competitive electricity prices than other countries, it has decades of experience in vehicle manufacturing, ancillary industry, good professionals, and modern infrastructures, but unfortunately, we are lagging behind in the adoption of electric vehicles.

[Recibe los análisis de más actualidad en tu correo electrónico o en tu teléfono a través de nuestro canal de Telegram]

In 2022, the market share of plug-in cars (pure electric and plug-in hybrids) in Spain was just under 10%, most of them plug-in hybrids. Last August this share stood at 13%, which already represents the majority of pure electrics, as happens in almost all markets when the first stages of sales of this technology are passed. There is undoubted progress in the market share of plug-in vehicles, but we are still a long way behind our neighbouring countries and the leaders in the adoption of electric vehicles. The market share of plug-in vehicles exceeded 20% in Europe in 2022, more than double that of Spain, while in China it was 29%. In August, Germany reached a 32% share of plug-in vehicles while in China it was 37%. Even a country like Portugal, with a lower GDP per capita than Spain, reached almost 22% plug-in market share in 2022, and its monthly share has just reached 33%.

The market share of plug-in vehicles in Spain is the same as it was two and a half years ago in central and northern European countries. Two and a half years behind may not seem like much, but in the face of exponentially growing market shares, it makes us a lagging and reactive market, and that is not what we need to project as a country. Several reasons have been cited for this delay, from the lower number of public charging points to the high percentage of the population living in apartment blocks, the huge delays in the payment of subsidies, the large increase in the price of electricity in 2022 due to the regulated indexed tariff, or a high presence of propaganda and fake news against the idea of electric vehicles.

Probably, all these issues are playing a part in influencing to a greater or lesser degree, and, given our long delay, we should attack on all fronts. Several companies recently warned that the implementation of fast charging points is taking more than two years due to bureaucratic issues and the different requirements of administrations and distributors. The compulsory presence of charging points in non-residential car parks is not being complied with and the subsidies from the ‘Moves’ plan are reducing their incentive effect due to the delay in payment. In this sense, the recent limited tax deduction approved by the government is a good idea.

But probably on top of this we have a significant resistance to the shift towards electric mobility. It is understandable that a country that is a major producer of combustion vehicles feels vertigo and a certain rejection of change, but we have known for too many years now that this change is inevitable and that resistance to this adaptation may jeopardise precisely what we seek to defend, which is our industrial power in this sector.

We must be absolutely clear on this point. These electric vehicle market shares are already high enough to ensure that electric mobility will be the dominant technological standard in the world for decades to come. The hydrogen car has already lost this race, and the use of synthetic fuels for private vehicles is nothing more than a far-fetched idea in denial of the evidence. The Chinese understood this years ago, and that is why they are today the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturers, have the largest factories, and threaten the traditional car industry in the rest of the world.

Spain, the country of the sun, which is also the fifth largest wind-generated power producer in the world and a country hugely dependent on energy imports, should embrace this change for all the good it can bring. It will help the foment the penetration of renewables, improve our trade balance, clean the air in our cities, and help us meet our emissions reduction targets. Germany is doing this when it had reasons similar to ours for falling in such resistance, and, furthermore, it does not possess our opportunities for self-sufficiency in energy matters. 

An intelligent and efficient use of Next Generation funds through the PERTE for electric and connected vehicles, in addition to our aforementioned potential, are saving the industrial challenge of the transformation of the Spanish automotive industry for now. In fact, Renault itself will receive €3.4 million from this PERTE for the assembly of electric vehicle batteries in Valladolid and Palencia, which seems to indicate that 100% electric vehicles will be manufactured in the short term. But let’s not get complacent. Although there is likely to be a third PERTE for electric vehicles, the PERTE will not last a lifetime. Spain must reach the plug-in vehicle quotas of its neighbours to avoid doubts and suspicions about whether we are the ideal country to establish this industry. Because this is not just about saving factories and brands, it is also about attracting new players. The two dominant companies in the world of electric vehicles are Tesla and B&D, with a huge gap between them and the rest. Spain must also present itself as an ideal destination for companies like these, and it will only be able to do so fully if it embraces the electric future with determination.
Se puede leer el artículo original en español en Cinco Días

¿Qué te ha parecido el artículo?