Global sales of EVs hit record number, but is growth sustainable?

30 May 2018

Image: John_T/Shutterstock

The International Energy Agency has compiled data over the past year to show just how many EVs are on the road now, with China showing phenomenal growth.

While a number of factors have contributed to the onset of climate change across the globe, one of the biggest polluters is the internal combustion engine (ICE) found in nearly every vehicle on the planet.

However, things appear to be changing in a dramatic way as electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid vehicles begin to make considerable advancements in their respective technologies, paving the way for an emission-free future.

Surge in China

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), government incentives and interest from private owners have seen the total amount of EVs rise to 3.1m as of 2017.

This is a 56pc increase on 2016 when the 2m mark was passed, and follows a similar increase in 2015, which saw the number of EVs exceed the 1m mark.

Driving this surge appears to be China, which now accounts for 40pc of the global total of such vehicles, with 99pc of electric buses and two-wheel bikes attributed to the Asian superpower.

Incredibly, China has gone from having a negligible number of EVs to more than 1m in the space of four years, with a total of 580,000 EVs sold last year alone.

But, by a considerable margin, the IEA said that Norway is the country to emulate, with 39pc of all new car sales being electric. This is exemplified by recent reports, which showed that the country’s oil industry is seeing a noticeable dip in demand because of the widespread adoption of the vehicles.

Ambitious targets

Looking to the future, the IEA predicted that there could be as many as 125m EVs being used across the globe by 2030, largely based on the targets and demands set by various policies announced by governments.

If the targets were to become more ambitious, it is possible that this could reach as high as 220m in the same time period.

Ireland is one such nation that has set out an ambitious target for EV adoption by joining other nations in saying that no more ICE vehicles will be sold here by 2030.

A recent survey conducted among Irish drivers shows there is an interest in EVs, but that many are not planning to buy one until a decade from now, or even longer.

In terms of what is holding back widespread adoption, the IEA identified battery costs as being a major factor, with incentives and tax breaks required to make current models affordable for the average person.

Also, energy-wise, the number of EVs on the road has not negatively impacted electricity demand, amounting to 54 terawatt hours, but this will obviously increase over time.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic