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Growth Rate of Electric Vehicles in U.S. vs China and Europe

Jun 28, 2021 | Newsletter Articles

Despite difficult circumstances and the negative impact of the pandemic on the automotive industry, electric vehicles have made a giant leap in many countries in 2020.

According to estimates from the specialist site EV-Volumes, electric cars and plug-in hybrids accounted for 4.2% of global new passenger vehicle sales last year, up from 2.5% in 2019.

In 2020, three out of four passenger cars sold in Norway were electric or hybrid, while Iceland, Sweden and Finland also made it to the top 5 list- testifying to the rapid adoption of electric mobility in Northern Europe.

China, which is by far the world’s largest market in terms of sales volume, commanded a EV share of 5.7% in 2020. While Europe seems to be taking the lead in the race for adoption, with a 10% market share, the United States is lagging far behind with a market share of just 2.0%.

For the case of Norway, it is a set of very beneficial policy measures (tax exemptions, free tolls and other economic incentives) that have enabled it to promote the purchase and adoption of electric vehicles so successfully.

This Norwegian model remains difficult to transfer elsewhere. Firstly because of its cost to state coffers, with Norway subsidizing the purchase of electricity at a level that few other countries could afford. And secondly, because it is a particularly rich country (ironically thanks to its oil reserves) and which has one of the highest income levels in the world.

Adoption of EVs in the U.S. Vs China/Europe.

In a recent survey done by the Pew Research Centre, about 7% of U.S adults have electric cars while about 39% indicated their desire to own one1. Generally, while adoption of electric vehicles isn’t so much on the rise, there is a significant interest by many U.S. citizens to switch filling up with plugging in.

In the U.S., adoption of electric vehicles seems to concentrate around a few major metropolitan areas. Away from that, not much adoption is happening in other areas. Nonetheless, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) 2, more than 1.8m electric vehicles were registered in the U.S in 2020, which is more than three times the figure recorded in 2016.

There are three main categories of EVs; All-electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. All-electric vehicles have been the most preferred category in the U.S. with more 1.1M sold in 2020 compared to just 300,000 in 2016.

While that growth might sound impressive, as earlier mentioned, the U.S. is lagging behind in the adoption of EVs compared to China and Europe. The U.S accounts for just about 2% of the global EV sales while China and Europe command 5.7% and 10% respectively.

In terms of growth, the fastest growth in EV adoption has been in Europe: a compound annual growth rate of 60% from 2016 to 2020, compared with 36% increase in China and only 17% in the U.S.

The general slow uptake of EVs in the U.S. is largely attributed to withdrawn tax credit on most popular EV models, and plug-in hybrids declining in popularity. California state is perhaps the most aggressive when it comes to supporting EVs in the U.S.: the state encourages carmakers to prioritize EVs, offers a range of incentives and rebates on EVs, and has a densely distributed network of charging stations.

Europe overtakes China on electric vehicle sales

Europe is ahead of China in the electric vehicle race. According to a note by independent German analyst Matthias Schmidt3, sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid models in Western Europe, are said to have exceeded Chinese volumes in the first seven months of 2020. Between January and July, Europe sold 500,000 electrified models, against 486,000 units for China.

In detail, the preferences of European consumers swing between battery electric vehicles – 269,000 units sold since early 2020 – and plug-in hybrid models – 231,000 registered vehicles -, while the Chinese market is showing greater interest in all-electric models – 378,000 units sold, compared to 108,000 for plug-in hybrids.


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