Beyond one-million electric cars

November 28th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize


In 2015 the global threshold of 1-million electric cars on the road was exceeded, with the final figure reaching 1,26-million. This is a symbolic achievement highlighting significant efforts deployed jointly by a number of governments and industries over the past ten years.

This the executive summary of the IEA’s Global EV outlook 2016 report. 

Click here to download the full report

In 2014, only about half of today’s electric car stock existed, while in 2005, electric cars were still measured in hundreds. The electric car stock has been growing steadily since 2010, with 80% of these vehicles being located in the United States, China, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway.

Ambitious targets and policy support have lowered vehicle costs, extended vehicle range and reduced consumer barriers in a number of countries. The market shares of electric cars rose above 1% in seven countries in 2015: Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, China and the UK.

Market shares reached 23% in Norway and nearly 10% in the Netherlands. China’s booming electric car sales in 2015 made it the main market worldwide, before the United States, for the first time. China is also home to the strongest global deployment of e-scooters and electric buses.

Fig. 1: Evolution of the global electric car stock, 2010 to 2015 (Sources: IEA analysis based on EVI country submissions, complemented by EAFO (2016), IHS Polk (2014), MarkLines (2016), ACEA (2016a), EEA (2015) and IA-HEV (2015)).

Substantial new implementation of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) was also observed in 2015, on par with the growth of the global electric car stock. Public policies are encouraging publicly accessible charging development through direct investment and public-private partnerships.

Such partnerships are occurring in urban areas and beyond, with charging networks aiming to enable long-distance travel on EVs even at the continental scale, as in the case of the European Union (EU).

Industry, governments and early adopters have succeeded in demonstrating that electric cars can deliver the practicality, sustainability, safety and affordability characteristics expected from them, but the EV market still requires policy support to achieve widespread adoption and deployment. Battery costs have been cut by a factor four since 2008 (Fig. 2) and are set to decrease further. In parallel, battery energy density needs to increase to enable longer ranges for lower prices.

Technological progress and economies of scale are critical to move towards cost parity with conventional internal combustion engines (ICEs). Recent carmaker announcements suggesting EV ranges that will soon be exceeding 300 km give encouraging signals for the future.

Battery density and cost

The development of battery energy density and cost over the past decade gives encouraging signs on the possibility to meet targets defined by carmakers and the US department of energy. The electrification of road transport modes other than cars, namely 2-wheelers, buses and freight delivery vehicles, is currently ongoing in a few localised areas.

With an estimated stock exceeding 200-million units, China is the global leader in the electric 2-wheelers market and almost the only relevant player globally, primarily because of the restriction on the use of conventional 2-wheelers in several cities to reduce local pollution. China is also leading the global deployment of electric bus fleets, with more than 170 000 buses already circulating today.


Fig. 2: Evolution of battery energy density and cost (Sources: US DOE (2015 and 2016) for PHEV battery cost and energy density estimates; EV Obsession (2015); and HybridCARS (2015)).

PHEV battery cost and energy density data shown in Fig. 2 are based on an observed industry-wide trend, include useful energy only, refer to battery packs and suppose an annual battery production of 100 000 units for each manufacturer.

Reaching 2020 deployment targets

Reaching 2020 deployment targets for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) requires a sizeable growth of the electric car stock. Meeting 2030 decarbonisation and sustainability goals requires a major deployment of electric cars in the 2020s.

EVs of all types lie at the heart of future sustainable transport systems, alongside the optimisation of urban structures to reduce trip distances and shift mobility towards public transportation. The wide global deployment of EVs across all modes is necessary to meet sustainability targets. The EVI 20 by 20 target calls for an electric car fleet of 20-million by 2020 globally.


Fig. 3: Deployment scenarios for the stock of electric cars to 2030 (Sources: IEA analysis based on IEA (2016), UNFCCC (2015b), the EVI 2020 target and country targets).

Note: 2DS = 2°C Scenario; 4DS = 4°C Scenario.

The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change and Call to Action sets a global deployment target of 100-million electric cars and 400-million electric 2- and 3-wheelers in 2030. The IEA 2DS, describing an energy system consistent with an emissions trajectory giving a 50% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C, outlines an even more ambitious deployment pathway for electric cars by 2030 (150-million) (Fig. 3).

Meeting these targets implies substantial market growth to develop further the current 1,26-million electric car stock, as well as the swift deployment of electric 2-wheelers and buses beyond the Chinese market. The climate change-related benefits of EVs can be fully harvested under the condition that their use is coupled with a decarbonised grid, an additional challenge for countries that are largely dependent on fossil fuels for power generation.

Investment in EV roll-out can support this transition, e.g. increasing the opportunities available to integrate variable renewable energy. Early EV adoption also brings other immediate benefits (such as air quality improvements and reduced noise).

Click here to download the full report


This executive summary is published here with permission. Click here for more IEA articles of interest to the electrical energy sector.

Contact Marc-Antonie Eyl-Mazzega, IEA,


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