More than half of all Belgians (55%) and 62% of French don’t believe the electric car (EV) will replace the combustion engine (ICE) entirely in the long term. Austrians (65%) are even more skeptical. The opposite is true in the US or China, where 62 and 65% believe they will, not to mention the Turks, where 78% are convinced.
One thing is clear: the future is obscured by clouds in the minds of potential car buyers, rooted in prejudices, as shown by the findings of the 2024 ‘Observatoire Cetelem de l’Automobile’. The latter is the French BNP Paribas Bank’s yearly Car Observation Report, a global survey of 15.000 people in 16 countries.
EV best solution?
The interviews with people between 18 and 65 were done in June and July 2023, at least 800 per country, with France getting the lion’s share: 3.000. Most people – 8 in 10- around the globe believe technology will produce cars with less environmental imprint in the future, but again Belgians (74%) and French (72%) are less convinced the electric automobile will be the Holy Grail.
The Chinese are firm believers (97%), and even 88% think the electric car will be the best solution. An idea the French (41%) and Belgians (55%) don’t share. That translates into low intentions to buy an electric car as the next one, with French, Belgians, and Austrians alike (around 20%), while 65% of Chinese favor an EV as their next purchase.
They saw an abundance of new electric cars – with some 20 different brands surfacing in the last twenty years – flooding their home market at prices generally half of EV prices in the rest of the world.
Good quality or not?
And they believe it’s good quality (93%) compared to European cars (83%), while Belgians, Germans or Austrians (41%) and French (39%) have a less rosy idea of Chinese car quality. European car brands generally get high perception remarks worldwide, above 90% in most countries, except for Americans (83%), who think theirs are even better (90%).
Only 14% of Belgians envision buying a new car in the next twelve months, and 42% will wait at least another year or longer. But only one in three willing to buy will go electric. And that will probably not be a Chinese one, as only 31% would be ready to, compared to 87% preferring a European.
The major prejudices against EVs remain for private buyers, with the high initial purchase price on top (48%), the fear of too little infrastructure to recharge (36%), and typical ‘range anxiety’ (31%) following. A new factor (28%) popping up next is the fear that after the recent energy crisis triggered by the Ukrainian war, the price of electricity will be higher than petrol prices.
In Belgium, 78% think this way. But they’re not the only ones, as a comparable percentage of French, Italians, Austrians, and even Americans think likewise.
On top of that, only 25% of those Belgians believe the country will be able to produce enough electricity for the EVs to come, the other 75% are non-believers despite several studies proving the opposite. They are the less confident of the whole (surveyed) world. Even the French (29%) are more optimistic, while 83% of the Chinese are pretty sure they’ll manage.
Is government incentive necessary?
So, considering the stubborn distrust in electric cars as the way to go in the future, it won’t come as a surprise to see that 76% of all respondents believe government subsidies are essential to winning over the private car buyer.
The Belgians (67%) are among those the least convinced here. In Belgium, only the Flemish part of the country will get a subsidy of up to €5.000 for an EV under €40.000 list price from 2024 onward. That was confirmed again by the regional government on Thursday. Brussels and Wallonia, which are also lagging in EV charging infrastructure, will have to do without.
Nevertheless, the Flemish government has banned selling new cars with combustion engines beyond 2029, six years earlier than the European Union agreed. Recent Transport & Mobility Leuven studies concluded that this is unrealistic as only 46% of cars would be EVs by then. In the Cetelem study, 83% of the Belgians believed forcing people to replace their ICE car would be unjust to households with a moderate income.