Working Paper

Beyond major cities: Analysis of electric passenger car uptake in European rural regions

In Europe, new electric passenger car registrations by total numbers, shares, and on a per capita basis were highest in urban and intermediate regions in 2019. However, rural regions offer great potential to electrify the motorized car fleet. This paper focuses on new electric passenger car registrations in rural regions and analyzes policies in leading rural electric passenger car markets that may have driven the uptake.

Several rural regions with high electric passenger car shares have set a 100% electric vehicle stock target, an important step to spur electric vehicle policy measures. All national or regional governments of the nine leading rural electric vehicle markets analyzed provide purchase incentives, tax breaks on registration and for owning a car, or a combination.

The governments of Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have national funding programs to support the extension of the public charging network. Public charging points per 100,000 inhabitants in rural regions of these countries exceed national values by up to more than three times. Many of the governments of the rural regions studied have additional infrastructure support programs, such as free installation of public charging points or financial aid for the installation of home chargers.

Due to varying preconditions in less populated areas, there is no policy set that can easily be adopted across all rural regions to speed up the transition to electric vehicles. However, the analysis indicates that financial incentives to support electric vehicle purchase and use, and local incentives for the extension of the public and private charging infrastructure network can help to expand adoption. Local activities such as community-based electric carsharing initiatives, information, and awareness campaigns can also help to spur the electrification of the rural vehicle fleets beyond major cities.