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UK leads Europe in electric car growth

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Registrations up 300 percent in the UK and 36.6 percent across the continent

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Europe's interest in electric cars is slowly growing, with registrations of electric and hybrid vehicles up 36.6 percent last year. Of the major EU markets, the UK saw the biggest growth, with registrations up a massive 300 percent. The UKwas followed by Germany (up 70 percent) and France (up 30 percent). Interest across the continent was split fairly evenly between hybrid vehicles (36,836) and all-electric cars (38,495), with the total number of registrations representing just 0.6 percent of the overall market. This is proportionally similar to the US, where concrete data isn't available but estimates put electric car sales at around 119,710 in 2014 — just over 0.7 percent of the market.

Tax incentives for electric cars are having mixed results

However, the new figures also suggest that government incentives for buying electric cars could be having mixed results. The Guardian points out that the UK's growing interest might be driven by tax exemptions and premiums of £5,000 ($7,600) for electric and plug-in vehicles, while in the Netherlands — where similar tax exemptions are available — registrations of electric vehicles fell by 42 percent between 2013 and 2014.

It's also possible, however, that this variation might be caused by the maturity of different markets, with tax breaks only helping persuade individuals already tempted by electric cars. Other potential customers might need to see features like greater driving range and more charging stations before they're tempted to switch. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (the body that compiled these figures) certainly seems to believe this is the case and is pushing for more subsidies and incentives in the EU over the coming years to sustain the market.