IEA report – 3 million electric cars on the road worldwide

Three million battery electric cars (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs) are on the world’s roads as of 2017 according to the newest edition of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Global Electric Vehicles Outlook report.

From 2016, this represents a 54% growth, which while impressive still amounts to a relatively small proportion of vehicles sold worldwide.

In a statement, the IEA said that China remained “by far the largest electric car market in the world”, accounting for half sold last year. Nearly 580,000 electric cars were sold in China in 2017, a 72% increase from the previous year. The United States had the second-highest, with about 280,000 cars sold in 2017, up from 160,000 in 2016.

In terms of market share, Nordic countries are in the lead. Norway saw 39% of all new cars sold being electric, making Norway the biggest country in the world in terms of market share. Iceland saw electric vehicles being 12% of those sold, while Sweden was 6%. Japan and Germany saw strong growth with sales almost doubling in both countries by comparison to 2016.

IEA added: “Electric mobility is not limited to cars. In 2017, the stock of electric buses rose to 370,000 from 345,000 in 2016, and electric two-wheelers reached 250 million. The electrification of these modes of transport has been driven almost entirely by China, which accounts for more than 99% of both electric bus and two-wheeler stock, though registrations in Europe and India are also growing.”

Charging infrastructure grew markedly too. There were almost 3 million home and office charging points, while there was around 430,000 public charges, 25% of which were fast chargers.

Explaining why electrification is beginning to take off, the IEA said: “The growth of EVs has largely been driven by government policy, including public procurement programmes, financial incentives reducing the cost of purchase of EVs, tightened fuel-economy standards and regulations on the emission of local pollutants, low- and zero-emission vehicle mandates and a variety of local measures, such as restrictions on the circulation of vehicles based on their pollutant emission performances.

“The rapid uptake of EVs has also been helped by progress made in recent years to improve the performance and reduce the costs of lithium-ion batteries. However, further battery cost reductions and performance improvements are essential to improve the appeal of EVs. These are achievable with a combination of improved chemistries, increased production scale and battery sizes, according to the report. Further improvements are possible with the transition to technologies beyond lithium-ion.”