Working Paper

Battery electric vehicle access in Europe: A comparison of rural, intermediate, and urban regions

Tracking progress

This paper analyzes electric passenger car uptake in urban, intermediate, and rural regions in 17 European countries, with a focus on the latter. Rural regions generally see higher levels of passenger car usage and lower levels of public transportation availability compared to urban regions, while having higher possible access to home charging. Further understanding of how the rural battery electric vehicle (BEV) market is developing, and analysis of policies and actions in rural regions with high registration shares, can help to address inequities in electric vehicle access.

Total new BEV registrations in the urban regions studied grew to around 372,000 vehicles in 2020, which is double the new registrations in 2019. In intermediate regions, BEV registrations grew to over 260,000 vehicles. In rural regions total new BEV registrations grew to almost 84,000. The lower totals in rural regions can be attributed to the smaller population.

The analysis found that new BEV registrations are not equally distributed across European regions. In intermediate regions, the average BEV market share of 6.7% was 0.5 percentage points higher than in urban and rural regions. Looking at the regions which experienced BEV registrations equal to or above the European average, their share was the highest in intermediate regions (45%), followed by rural regions (42%), and urban regions (38%). However, variations existed within each regional typology.

The study also analyzed nine rural regions with high BEV uptake in more detail. Six rural regions with the highest BEV share in new passenger car registrations in their respective countries experienced a higher uptake than their national averages. This was most pronounced in Rhön-Grabfeld, where the BEV registration share was 25% compared to 7% in Germany in 2020. In terms of public charging infrastructure, most of the rural regions of focus had higher number of public chargers per inhabitants compared to the country at large. This trend was also true for five of the nine regions when looking at the percentage of fast chargers available compared to the national share. Beyond national policies, the nine rural regions have also adopted a mix of local and regional policies to spur BEV uptake. Typical national measures included purchase incentives and tax benefits for BEVs. All nine regions also benefited from some form of public charging infrastructure funding established at local, regional, and national levels. Typical local and regional actions included setting electric vehicle goals, providing information on electric vehicles, and car-sharing initiatives.