rear of white car with electric charger

Traditionally, cars in Portugal have always been more expensive than in Spain for tax reasons, both in terms of VAT (23% compared to 21%) and the so-called ISV (Vehicle Tax) – which, incidentally, electric cars don’t pay.

Spain is looking for an answer to a question: why is Portugal, a country whose per capita income is almost 10% lower than Spain, but where 31.8% of all cars sold were 100% electric or BEV and plug-in hybrids or PHEV, more successful in its commitment to electric vehicles?

According to the electromobility index drawn up by the Spanish association ANFAC, Portugal scored 25.8 compared to just 13 in Spain, while the European average is 27.

So where do the differences lie?

“The Portuguese are very predisposed to new technologies and this is also true of the electric car,” David Barrientos, Nissan Iberia’s corporate communications manager, told the Spanish newspaper ‘El Mundo’, adding that the impetus given by the Portuguese government and municipalities has meant that “public opinion on electric mobility is very positive”.

“Having a vehicle of this type sets them apart because they are also very brand-oriented,” added Vicent Lehoucq, Opel’s director in Spain and Portugal. The absorbent cotton test: on both sides of the border, the American Tesla was the leader among BEVs, but in Spain it was the 21st brand by volume and sold one-sixth as many cars (less than 13,000) as Toyota, the market leader – while in Portugal it was eighth and its 9,329 registrations were almost half those of Peugeot, top of the list.

On the other hand, our neighbors don’t find this point of differentiation in hybrid models (pure or light). In 2023, they accounted for only one in seven new car purchases.

The distances to be covered are much shorter, which reduces the so-called autonomy anxiety (fear of being stranded due to lack of energy in the battery) and makes journeys less dependent on the charging network. For example, between Lisbon and Porto it’s 300 km, which – with a little care – almost any average electric car can do in one go. Only those who want to cross the country from north to south (or vice versa) will have to face a long journey of 700 km. In Spain, the reality is different.

Traditionally, cars in Portugal have always been more expensive than in Spain for tax reasons, both in terms of VAT (23% compared to 21%) and the so-called ISV (Vehicle Tax) – which, incidentally, electric cars don’t pay.

Today, this difference isn’t as great, except for high-cylinder models, but it still means that, proportionally, a BEV isn’t as expensive compared to a combustion car as it is in Spain.

It’s one of the decisive factors. But not so much for individuals, but for companies. According to data from employers’ associations (ANFAC and ACAP, respectively), companies and the self-employed bought 62% of electric vehicles in Spain and 80% in Portugal. But while Portuguese companies and professionals can deduct up to 100% of the VAT on the purchase of the car – and the electricity they charge it with – in Spain this is a long-standing and unsatisfied demand from the sector, despite promises in the past. In the case of passenger cars, Spanish companies, SMEs and the self-employed have purchase subsidies ranging from 2,900 to 4,000 euros.

According to the latest figures from Anfac, the public network in Spain has 25,180 charging stations in operation, to which must be added another 8,869 that have been installed but are not working for various reasons. And of these, only 26% (and nine out of 10 were installed by the brands themselves) have a power of more than 22 kW. On this side of the border, there are 4,400 (almost 40% of which are ‘fast’) if we look at the Portuguese public company Mobi-E.

Mobi-E centralizes and monitors the status of the entire charging network in Portugal, which guarantees its “universality and interoperability”. All operators join and the user only needs to have a contract with an energy supplier for electric mobility, and can use any pole and then pay by credit card.

Finally, the TCO, or total cost of ownership of a car, comes into play. In other words, the monthly expense involved adding depreciation, maintenance, fuel, etc. to the purchase expense. Thus, according to the latest ‘Car Cost Index’ study by Lease Plan, it was found that in Portugal a 100% electric car is the cheapest option, both in a compact size (such as the Seat León or Renault Mégane E-Tech) and in a medium sedan (VW Passat or Kia EV6).

In the first case, an electric vehicle would have a monthly TCO of 773 euros, between 331 and 444 euros less than with the other technologies considered (PHEV and combustion). For the larger vehicle, the figure rises to 898 euros, which is between 391 and 568 euros in its favor. Meanwhile, in Spain, the price of an electric car is 895 euros for a compact car and 1,059 euros for a medium-sized car. These figures are only exceeded by plug-in hybrids, but the advantage of the electric vehicle would be significantly reduced with more years of use and fewer kilometers.

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