Electric Vehicles – There is a slow growth in the U.S., faster in China, Europe

February 9, 2021

A small but significant share of car owners in the United States have traded filling up for plugging in, and many more are thinking of joining them. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 7% of U.S. adults said they currently have an electric or hybrid vehicle, and 39% said they were very or somewhat likely to seriously consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they’re in the market for new wheels.

Outside of a few major metropolitan areas, electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t all that common in the U.S. While their numbers have grown rapidly in absolute terms in recent years, that’s from a relatively small base.

Europe leads the way in new electric vehicle sales

As of 2020, nearly 1.8 million EVs were registered in the U.S., more than three times as many as in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). They come in three broad categories. All-electric vehicles (also called battery-electric vehicles) have been the fastest-growing category: The total number of such vehicles registered in the U.S. has soared from fewer than 300,000 in 2016 to more than 1.1 million last year. Consumers have purchased the other two types of EVs, plug-in hybrid vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, at lower rates.

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But the U.S. represents only about 17% of the world’s total stock of 10.2 million EVs, according to IEA data. China has 44% of all the EVs in the world (more than 4.5 million), and the nearly 3.2 million in Europe account for about 31%.

Electric vehicles make up large share of new car sales in Northern Europe

The fastest growth in EV sales has been in Europe: a compound annual growth rate of 60% from 2016 to 2020, compared with increases of 36% in China and 17% in the U.S.

Electric vehicle registrations in the U.S.

Last year, nearly three-quarters of all cars sold in Norway and more than half of those sold in Iceland were electric – by far the highest market shares for EVs in any of the 31 countries for which IEA has collected data. In 10 other European countries, between a tenth and a third of all new-car sales last year were electric.

By contrast, sales have slowed in the U.S. in the past few years, largely due to the declining popularity of plug-in hybrids and the phaseout of federal tax credits on some of the most popular models. Last year, about 64,300 plug-in hybrids were sold, about half as many as in 2018, according to the IEA. Meanwhile, about 231,000 all-electric vehicles were sold in 2020, down 3.2% from 2018. In each of the past three years, EVs accounted for about 2% of the U.S. new-car market. The COVID-19 pandemic may have affected vehicle sales of all types in 2020, making comparisons difficult.

by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2018, CES 2017, 2016 and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.