The State of Electric Vehicle Adoption Worldwide

Published on 02.11.2019

10 min read

High School

Several European nations have announced plans to ban the sale of new internal combustion cars in the future. In France, the phase-out is planned to begin in 2040. California, China and India have also set objectives to eventually require vehicles to emit no more than trace amounts of pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHGs). This article looks at the state of electric vehicle adoption worldwide and the conditions that need to be met to achieve the announced goals.

A man walks past electric cars and tricycles on a sidewalk in Beijing on April 25, 2017.

Basic Data1

  • From 120,000 units in 2012 to 1,200,000 in 2017, electric passenger car sales have risen ten-fold in five years. Nevertheless, they represent only 1.5% of new car sales2 in a global fleet estimated at one billion vehicles. Electric vehicle sales are expected to approach two million in 2018.
  • Eight countries – China, the United States, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden – account for 90% of global electric car sales. China largely dominates the market, with a share of approximately 50%.
  • Electric vehicles represent 10% of new car sales in three areas of the world: Norway, the three Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and some 30 cities in California.
  • In Europe, Norway leads the pack, with sales topping 58,000 in 2017. Germany comes next (55,000), followed by the United Kingdom (44,750) and France (36,800).
1.2 million:
The number of electric cars sold worldwide in 2017 (1.5% of total sales).

Production Conditions

  • The battery is the most important component of an electric vehicle, apart from the motor and onboard computer. Thanks to the development of , driving range has been extended and battery costs have dropped: the price of a battery decreased from €350 per kilowatt-hour in 2015 to €200 per kilowatt-hour in 2017. A 40-kilowatt-hour battery has an average range of 250 kilometers, whereas a 100-kilowatt-hour battery can deliver up to 400 kilometers, due to the batteries’ higher and a 50% reduction in their weight.
  • Of the ten biggest car battery manufacturers, seven are Chinese, two are Japanese and one is South Korean. The world leader is China-based CATL, which has overtaken Japan’s Panasonic.

Deployment Conditions

  • Electric vehicles currently rely on strong government support for their development. Policies are needed to develop efficient public infrastructure, facilitate the installation of charging station networks, encourage manufacturers to produce electric models and subsidize the purchase of vehicles, whose cost continues to be prohibitive for most consumers. In France, the price of a new Renault Zoe with battery in 2018 was €26,000 (excluding the environmental rebate), which is more than 20 times the minimum monthly net salary.
  • Apart from purchase rebates, a variety of indirect incentives can be put in place, including free parking, the elimination of highway tolls and access to reserved lanes.
  • For long-distance journeys, quick-charge roadside stations are necessary for drivers to be able to “fill up”, or charge their vehicle to about 70% capacity, in 20 minutes. Fully charging a vehicle at home using a standard outlet requires eight to ten hours. At a private or workplace charging point, the operation takes between 75 minutes and six hours.
In Norway, electric cars represent 10% of new car sales, making it the European leader.

Adoption Pros and Cons

  • Electric cars help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as long as their comes from low-emission sources, which is largely the case in France and Norway. In China, India and the United States, electric vehicles actually increase emissions. In Europe, they lower them, though not to any significant degree in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Portugal. It is generally believed that switching to an electric vehicle does not mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if the energy sources used to charge it are more than 50% fossil 3.
  • Producing an electric vehicle uses vast amounts of energy, since the battery requires as much energy as the other components. All told, it takes twice as much energy to manufacture an electric car as it does to produce an equivalent internal combustion model4.
  • On the other hand, electric vehicles reduce urban air pollution and noise, lessen countries’ dependence on foreign oil and enable manufacturers to remain relevant as the global automotive industry transitions to a low-carbon future.

    Sources :

    1. See the France-Stratégie study (in French)
    2. The figures does not include light commercial vehicles or buses. The term electric vehicle (EV) encompasses battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fuel-cell vehicles (H2Vs), which are limited in number. It does not include non-plug-in hybrids, which can only deliver a range of a few kilometers in electric mode (electricity is produced by recovering the vehicle’s ).
    3. Observatoire CETELEM


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