Huge global disparities in electric car ownership – study

Auto Shanghai show in Shanghai
A Porsche electric vehicle (EV) charging point is seen during a media day for the Auto Shanghai show in Shanghai, China April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

April 22, 2021

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe and China dominate the world market for electric cars, but there are still very few electrified vehicles on the roads in large markets like Russia, South America and Africa, according to a study conducted by the Munich Mobility Show.

Europe sold more new electrified vehicles than China for the first time in 2020 and between them the two markets are home to more than 70% of the 9.9 million electrified cars sold so far, the study shows.

Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in the European Union almost trebled to over 1 million vehicles last year, accounting for more than 10% of overall sales.

The Munich Mobility Show – the revamped and expanded successor to the Frankfurt auto show, which is slated to be held in September this year – examined vehicle registration data from a number of sources and found that through 2020, China had 4.2 electric vehicles on the road, Europe had 3.2 million and the United States had 1.7 million.

New electric vehicle sales rose in all major markets in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, except for the U.S. market where sales fell 6%.

While 80% of the electrified vehicles sold so far in China and 79% of those sold in the United States were battery electric models, only 54% of those sold in Europe – including the European Union, European Free Trade Association countries and the United Kingdom – were battery electric, as the continent is still fairly reliant on sales of plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in hybrids face an uncertain future in the EU as policymakers are considering regulations that could make them uneconomical for carmakers to produce.

The Munich Mobility Show’s study also showed vast disparities in electric vehicle ownership.

Norway, with a population of 5 million and strong support for electric cars is an unparalleled success, with a cumulative total of 433,609 electric cars sold so far and new sales of more than 105,000 units in 2020.

But Russia, with a population of around 145 million, only sold 1,760 electrified cars through 2020.

Cumulative electric car registrations through 2020 in South America, a continent with a population of more than 420 million, were below 18,000.

And the only registrations in Africa, a continent that is home to 1.2 billion people, were exclusively in South Africa and totaled just 1,509 cars through 2020.

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)