Electric vehicle outlook 2021 – on a strong growth curve


The electric vehicle (EV) market showed growth of over 40% during 2020 with a record 3 million EVs registered.

Europe led the new registrations with 1.4 million EVs followed by China with 1.2 million EVs and the United States with 295,000 EVs.

By the end of 2020, there was a total of more than 10 million EVs in the market globally, representing about 1% of the total vehicle stock. In addition there was another roughly 1 million electric buses, vans and heavy trucks.

Battery electric vehicles, which accounted for two-thirds of the new EV registrations, also made up two-thirds of the stock in 2020.

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China, with 4.5 million EVs, has the largest fleet, followed by Europe with 3.2 million with EVs.

The data presented in the IEA’s latest Global EV Outlook attributes the resilience of EV sales in the face of pandemic responses to three main factors:

  • supportive regulatory frameworks;
  • additional incentives to safeguard sales;
  • an expanded range of EV models.

Future outlook

The near-term outlook for EV sales is bright, according to the IEA.

In the first quarter of 2021, global EV sales rose by around 140% compared to the same period in 2020. This was driven by sales in China of around 500,000 vehicles and in Europe of around 450,000, while US sales more than doubled relative to the first quarter of 2020.

The number of EV models also is increasing. In 2020, 370 electric models were available and of the world’s top 20 vehicle manufacturers representing around 90% of new registrations in 2020, 18 have stated plans to widen their model portfolio and to rapidly scale up the production of light-duty electric vehicles.

The model availability of electric heavy duty vehicles is also broadening, with four major truck manufacturers indicating an all-electric future.

Looking further ahead, the IEA anticipates “healthy growth” during this decade. Based on current trends and policies, the number of EVs, vans, heavy trucks and buses is projected to reach 145 million by 2030.

In its net zero by 2050 scenario, the IEA has EVs increasing to more than 60% of global vehicle sales by 2030 and constituting 20% of the global stock.

The IEA states that advances in battery technology and mass manufacturing will continue to drive down the cost of EVs. However, to achieve targets stronger ambitions and actions are required from countries, the organisation posits.

These include policies to promote the rollout of zero emission vehicles in the medium and heavy duty vehicle segments and the corresponding fast charging infrastructure and on-going measures to curtail carbon emissions including differentiated taxation of vehicles and fuels that reflect their environmental performance.

Ultimately, in order for EVs to attain their full potential to mitigate carbon emissions, critical progress is required to decarbonise electricity generation, to integrate electric vehicles in power systems, to build charging infrastructure and to advance sustainable battery manufacturing and their recycling, the IEA concludes.