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Fuel sales continue to climb in Malaga despite more hybrid and electric cars being sold
Energy

Fuel sales continue to climb in Malaga despite more hybrid and electric cars being sold

Consumption has picked up since the pandemic in the face of an older vehicle fleet, a logistics boom and a growing population in the province

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Monday, 25 March 2024, 23:17

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If more hybrid and electric cars are being sold, it would make sense that fuel consumption and sales should fall. But that is not the case, as ever since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, spending on fuels has been increasing steadily throughout Malaga province.

Last year marked a decade high, second only to the year before the coronavirus health crisis, in 2019. According to data from the latest report by the Corporación De Reservas Estratégicas De Productos Petrolíferos (CORES), from last year until March 2024, 803,496 tonnes of the two products most in demand by the automotive industry were sold: 95-octane unleaded petrol and diesel A. This is just 13,000 tonnes fewer than in 2019 (816,637).

But the report draws more conclusions. In the case of 95-octane petrol, last year the record was beaten, with 219,148 tonnes consumed, surpassing the previous record set in 2005. Despite a decline in the sale of diesel cars, the vehicle fleet is still the most popular when filling up across Malaga province service stations.

Diesel downwards

On the other side of the scale, data shows the consumption trend is headed downwards, especially in the case of diesel, but much slower than expected amid growing demands to decarbonise.

As a result, 13,877 fewer tonnes of diesel fuel were sold in 2023 than in the previous year. In addition, January 2024 has started with a decrease: 8% less than in the same month of 2019. It is also true that the figures are much lower than in the record year, which was 2007: the province has stopped burning 97,174 tonnes in these 16 years.

219,148

tonnes of 95-octane petrol fuel were sold in 2023, the all-time record since 2005.

"Consumption is at the same level as before the pandemic, although business sales are not", said Álvaro Fontes, president of the Andalusian Association of Fuel Retailers. This is explained by the competition from low-cost service stations, which have increased in recent years. "It is true that in general the market has recovered quite a lot, although not as much as before the pandemic," he pointed out.

For Fontes, "consumption is increasing due to the growth of the economy, but in the future, due to energy diversification with electric cars, hydrogen and synthetic fuels, and due to increased competition in the sector, our business will have a long decline". "The arrival of energy alternatives is going to be slower and more complex than what is politically intended," he added.

The increase in internet shopping has multiplied the number of delivery van fleets, most of which use diesel

For this reason, the president of Agavecar downplayed the decline in sales as a result of the emergence of electric and hybrid vehicles. "We are more affected by internal competition in the sector than by energy alternatives, which have more to do with media and political repercussions than with reality," Fontes said.

Agavecar manager Ignacio Fernández said: "Consumption has increased, but it is not enough to recover the pre-pandemic level, losses are at just over 8%. The feeling is that it will never recover due to the entry of new energies and the change in consumer habits, many consumers no longer take the car," he said.

Older vehicles

Despite the boom in public transport (which beat a record of almost 100 million passengers last year) and the arrival on the market of more "ecological" alternatives, Malaga province's vehicle fleet is one of the oldest in Spain, with an average of 15 years and seven months old, according to DGT data. These have a much higher fuel consumption than newer cars. There are 1,407,209 vehicles registered in the province, mostly petrol (695,428) and diesel (688,303), while only 3% are hybrids and electric vehicles.

13,877

tonnes less diesel were sold in 2023, marking a downward trend.

"The first lever to decarbonise the fleet, which we need as a society and which the EU obliges us to do, is to remove older vehicles from circulation. A fleet that is more than 14 years old, as is already the case in our country, is incompatible with reducing CO2 emissions," warned José Ignacio Moya, director general of Faconauto.

Low sales

This is compounded by high prices and uncertainty about the future of the engines. Dual engines (petrol and electric) are becoming more accepted as they are considered practical and their prices more moderate. But pure electrics are not getting off the ground, because of how expensive they are, widespread mistrust about their range and a scarcity of charging points.

The sale of eco cars is hardly noticeable for the moment in the accounts of Malaga's petrol stations

The balance of registrations last year in Malaga province makes this clear. By fuel type, while hybrids and electrics are growing, pure petrol and diesel still account for slightly more than half (50.7% compared to 49.3%). Last year, 9,847 petrol vehicles were registered (-5.5% less than in 2022); 1,787 diesel (-36.4%), and 11,309 of the so-called "ecological" cars (+30.4%), according to data from Malaga Automotive Association (AMA).

When there is a trade-in, many of them do not go out of date, but change hands: the second-hand market is three times the size of the new market and vehicles that are passed on are on average 13.4 years old.

Logistics make the difference

Antonio Ruiz, an entrepreneur in the fuel sector with businesses in Malaga and Seville, focuses on an activity that is booming and highly dependent on oil: "There is a phenomenon that we observe, and that is that the business that has grown the most in Spain is logistics, due to online purchases". "These vans are almost all diesel. Parcel delivery companies spend a lot on diesel because more and more people are buying online," he added.

Other factors Ruiz pointed to is a general trend towards more luxurious, SUV-type cars, which consume more; and the increase in tourism. "On the Costa del Sol there are many petrol stations and they are usually full: not only the 'low-cost' ones, they are all selling as they did 20 years ago," he said.

An example of the situation experienced in Malaga city and along the Costa del Sol is the Coloso group, which last year opened two new petrol stations. Its owner, Antonio Velarde, said consumption remains "stable". "There is more movement and a good Easter week is expected, but the figures are the same as always," he said. In his opinion, the impact of hybrids and electric cars is not yet being felt: "If they account for 8% of the total market, sales are down by around 7%, but it is not a very noticeable drop".

"It is hardly noticeable, it could be attributed to any other factor, not just the electric car," Velarde added. He said the weather has the greatest influence on fuel consumption in Malaga province. "The better the weather on the Costa del Sol, the more we move, we depend a lot on that," he said.

Population in greater Malaga

Strong population growth in the municipalities of greater Malaga is another factor. In the decade from 2012 to 2022 there has been a boom, both in the Axarquia towns closest to Malaga city (mainly Rincón de la Victoria, Vélez-Málaga and Torre del Mar), and in the Guadalhorce valley.

Figures from Spain's INE national statistics institute shows in the eastern area almost 15,000 new residents have been registered in ten years, of which Rincón has gained 9,353 (up to 50,569); and Vélez, 5,432 (83,899) - that's 11% more. And the trend is set to continue. The INE's demographic forecasts indicate Malaga will be the second fastest growing province in the country, only behind Madrid.

What's worse: for these residents there are no public transport alternatives, and they depend on cars to get to and from work, almost always in Malaga city, which ends up being many kilometres a day.

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