EV sales soared 140% to 1.1 million vehicles in Q1: IEA

Renault electric vehicle

Global electric vehicle (EV) sales picked up speed in the first quarter, but more government action is needed on charging stations and fossil-fuel vehicle bans to keep the momentum going, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

“We still see no sign of a slowdown in global electric car markets,” said Timur Gül, head of the IEA’s energy technology policy division, in a presentation on the global outlook for EVs.

While the COVID-19 pandemic drove global car sales down 16 percent in 2020, EV sales jumped 41 percent to around 3 million vehicles.

First quarter global EV sales soared 140 percent to 1.1 million vehicles, with strong growth in China, Europe and the United States, the IEA said.

A Munich Mobility Show study released last week showed huge disparities in global EV ownership, with very few electrified vehicles on the roads in large markets like Russia, South America and Africa. read more

EV sales growth in Europe and China has been fueled by tightening CO2 emissions standards and government subsidies.

Globally, consumers spent around $120 billion on EVs in 2020, while governments forked out around $13 billion in subsidies, or equivalent to around 10 percent of total spending, down from 20 percent of total spending in 2015.

That will fall further as battery prices drop and EVs reach cost parity with fossil-fuel vehicles, which IEA energy analyst Jacopo Tattini said should happen by 2030.

“But policies must be strengthened to enable a larger electric vehicle deployment,” Tattini said.

He said governments need to further tighten fuel economy standards and join the 20 or so countries that have already announced plans to ban on sales of new fossil-fuel vehicles – such as the United Kingdom, which has announced a ban from 2030.

Governments also need to keep up spending on charging infrastructure, Tattini said. Carmakers and environmental groups say more spending on EV chargers is needed to foster consumer confidence in the technology and support sales.

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 percent and is on track for a decade of strong expansion, according to a new report published today by the International Energy Agency.

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 percent increase from the previous year. By comparison, the global automobile market contracted 16 percent 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 centre of the global electric car market. Electric car registrations in Europe more than doubled to 1.4 million, while in China they increased 9 percent to 1.2 million.

“While they can’t do the job alone, electric vehicles have an indispensable role to play in reaching net-zero emissions worldwide,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA. “Current sales trends are very encouraging, but our shared climate and energy goals call for even faster market uptake. Governments should now be doing the essential groundwork to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by using economic recovery packages to invest in battery manufacturing and the development of widespread and reliable charging infrastructure.”

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, as outlined in the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

Consumer spending on electric cars increased another 50 percent last year to reach USD 120 billion. At the same time, government support measures stood at USD 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 percent 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 percent of all global auto sales.

The Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 notes that governments helped buffer electric cars from 2020’s downturn by extending existing policy and fiscal support, and augment them with stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Leading countries also promoted the competitive position of electric vehicles by strengthening fuel economy and emissions standards, and redoubled their support for developing battery technology and deploying charging station infrastructure.

The report emphasises that the shift of the road transport sector towards electric vehicles extends well beyond cars. The most electrified road transport mode today is two- and three-wheeled vehicles – such as motorcycles and mopeds – with more than 25 million units sold, the bulk of them in Asia. Urban buses have also electrified rapidly. And heavy trucks are a segment where electric models and sales have only recently begun to grow strongly, as battery performance have improved and driving ranges have lengthened.