The global auto industry suffered a punishing year in 2020 because of the major shock of Covid-19, but the electric car market bucked the wider trend with growth of over 40% and is on track for a decade of strong expansion, according to a new report published in April by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 finds that despite the pandemic setting off a cascade of economic recessions, a record 3 million new electric cars were registered in 2020, a 41% increase from the previous year. By comparison, the global automobile market contracted 16% in 2020. Electric cars’ strong momentum has continued into this year, with sales in the first quarter of 2021 reaching nearly two and half times their level in the same period a year earlier.
Last year’s increase brought the number of electric cars on the world’s roads to more than 10 million, with another roughly 1 million electric vans, heavy trucks and buses. For the first time last year, Europe overtook China as the center of the global electric car market. Electric car registrations in Europe more than doubled to 1.4 million, while in China they increased 9% to 1.2 million.
Electric vehicles are set for significant growth over the coming decade, the new IEA report finds. Based on current trends and policies, it projects the number of electric cars, vans, heavy trucks and buses on the road worldwide to reach 145 million by 2030. But the global fleet could reach 230 million if governments accelerate efforts to reach international climate and energy goals.
And if governments around the world pull together to pursue the even more ambitious goal of reaching net-zero emissions globally by 2050, the global electric vehicle fleet would grow even bigger.
Consumer spending on electric cars increased another 50% last year to reach US$120 billion. At the same time, government support measures stood at US$14 billion, the fifth year in a row in which they have fallen as a share of total spending. Even if government subsidies remain important for spurring the uptake of electric vehicles, this suggests sales are increasingly being driven more by consumer choice.
Automakers offered 370 electric car models in 2020, a 40% year-on-year increase. Eighteen of the 20 largest automakers have announced intentions to further increase the number of available models and boost production of electric light-duty vehicles. These automakers account for 90% of all global auto sales.