China passes U.S. as world’s top EV market

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 9, 2017

Electric vehicle sales are surging but could still fall below increasingly ambitious goals if incentives aren’t maintained, according to the International Energy Agency.

The number of EVs on the road jumped to 2 million in 2016, more than doubling from 2015, according to the Global EV Outlook 2017.

More than 750,000 plug-in EVs were sold last year, a record high. However, that fast growth has been slowing down. In 2016, sales of the clean cars grew 60 percent, down from 77 percent in 2015 and 85 percent in 2014.

Today, EVs make up 0.2 percent of the total number of passenger cars on the road.

“Electric vehicles (EVs) still have a long way to go before reaching deployment scales capable of making a significant dent in the development of global oil demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” said the IEA’s report.

The group estimated that sales were still on track to reach 600 million by 2040, a number it says is necessary to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, but that they were at “an increasing risk to start diverging” from that trajectory.

“It is undeniable that the current electric car market uptake is largely influenced by the policy environment,” it wrote in the report.

China overtakes the U.S.

China, which has strong incentives and quotas for clean cars, shot to being the world leader on EVs in 2016. It overtook the U.S. as the top market for EVs, accounting for 40 percent of the electric cars sold in the world, more than double the amount sold in the U.S.

Norway leads the world by far in market share, with electric cars making up 29 percent of sales. It is followed by the Netherlands with 6.4 percent, and Sweden with 3.4 percent.

A group of countries are expected to announce tomorrow at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing that they are setting a goal of having 30 percent of on-road vehicles in 2030 be electric.

Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States are part of the Electric Vehicles Initiative, first created in 2009 and coordinated by the IEA. The U.S. and the China are co-leading the group, but the report says the U.S. role is “under review.”

The energy minister for India, which is not part of the initiative, unveiled a plan last month to sell only electric cars by 2030, according to the International Business Times.

On track for 2 degrees?

Government policies like rebates, sales mandates and procurement are buoying sales. The IEA found that EVs were one of the only three clean energy technologies on a path toward meeting international targets to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, out of 26 technologies examined.

The 600 million number is an ambitious target, but not too far from other analysts’ guesses, which project a sharp uptick in sales sometime in the next two decades. BP PLC Chief Economist Spencer Dale has said sales could reach 450 million by 2035.

Major automakers like Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG are gearing up to introduce dozens of new models of EVs in the coming years. Their sales announcements underscore the IEA’s expectation of 9 million to 20 million EVs by 2020 and between 40 million and 70 million by 2025, the report said.