Electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in-hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) would have been considered science fiction even two decades ago. But in the last ten years, innovations in electric motors and battery packs have enabled car manufacturers like Tesla and BMW to release truly electric vehicles – with all of the comforts of a traditional car, and ranges of over 300 miles, in some cases.
Curious to learn which countries are adopting EVs and PHEVs at the highest rates? Wondering what the market outlook is like for EVs in the future?
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the countries with the highest EV sales, and the trends related to this data that we foresee related to EV and PHEV sales. Let’s get started.
The Top 10 Countries With The Highest EV Sales – Who Has The Highest Adoption Rates?
So, which countries are adopting EVs at the highest rates? Where are EVs the most popular? Let’s discuss the top 10 countries and regions with the highest growth of EV sales in 2017, based on the most recently-available sales data and charts for America, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Note: The number rankings of these countries was determined by total market share of newly-registered cars, based on new sales, not year-to-year increases.
- Norway: 38% Increase In Sales – In 2017, sales of electric vehicles in Norway grew by 38%, and this trend has continued in 2018. 45% of all new cars sold in Norway are now electric. Include PHEVs, and this number surges to 65%. Some of the top cars sold in the country included the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen E-Golf, BMW i3, and Kia Soul EV.
- Iceland: 116% Increase In Sales – In 2017, more than 14.5% of new cars registered in Iceland were EVs or PHEVs, which is a huge change from even just two years ago. In 2015, only 2.93% of new cars sold in Iceland were EVs and PHEVs, such as the VW E-Golf.Heavy subsidies from the government and cheap electricity – along with a high population of individuals living in cities – has led Iceland to quickly pave the way for EV infrastructure.
- Andorra: 623% Increase In Sales – This eye-popping number is due to the fact that Andorra, a tiny independent nation in the Iberian Peninsula near Spain, has a population of only about 78,000 people. In 2017, 5.6% of new car sales were EVs or PHEVs, up from only 0.81% in 2016.
- Sweden: 48% Increase In Sales – In 2017, 5.2% of all new cars sold were EVs or PHEVs in Sweden, up from 3.5% in 2016, and just 2.62% in 2015. Sweden now has a fleet of more than 50,000 electric cars, which is predicted to increase even further by 2030.
- California: 37% Increase In Sales – The United States as a whole does not make the top 10 – but California, considered on its own, does. Sales of EVs and PHEVs increased from 3.5% of new cars to 4.8% of new cars from 2016-2017. The market leader in California is, of course, Tesla – this may come as no surprise, given that the company is based in California. It’s predicted that more than 1.5 million electric cars will be on the roads in California by 2025, given that the state has made heavy investments in EV technology and charging stations.
- Belgium: 49% Increase In Sales – In 2017, 2.68% of new vehicles in Belgium were EVs and PHEVs, compared to 1.8% in 2016. Partially, this is due to new tax incentives which make EV ownership more affordable, so this trend is likely to continue in 2018 and beyond.
- The Netherlands: 58% Drop In Sales In 2017, Rebound – The Netherlands has a very high EV adoption rate. Interestingly, though, sales dropped hugely between 2016 and 2017, going from 6.7% of vehicles to just 2.6% of newly registered vehicles. This was because of a tax credit that ended – but new incentives have taken the place of the old credit, and sales of cars like the Tesla Model X are surging in the Netherlands in 2018.
- Finland: 114% Increase In Sales – Sales of EVs and PHEVs in Finland made up about 1.2% of all cars in 2016, but in 2017, this jumped to 2.57%, and sales are going strong in 2018, so we can expect this number to keep climbing.
- Switzerland: 42% Increase In Sales – EVs and PHEVs composed 1.8% of sales in 2016, but 2.55% of new car sales in 2017. 2018 sales were even higher – in Q1 of 2018 alone, year-over-year sales increased by nearly 36% in Switzerland.
- China: 60% Increase In Sales – China is the world’s largest EV market. In 2017, only 2.1% of cars sold were EVs. However, given that nearly 22.5 million vehicles were sold in China in 2017, a conservative estimate of total EVs sold in China in 2017 is 472,500.
For a quick comparison, Tesla – which has been around for more than 15 years – built its 300,000th car in February, 2018. In 2017 alone, Chinese consumers purchased 1.5x more EVs and PHEVs than Tesla has built in the past decade and a half.
What Does This Data Mean For EVs And PHEVs?
As you can see from the above ranking, European countries – and Nordic countries in particular – have extremely high EV adoption rates, as do other small countries like Andorra and Belgium. But what does this mean?
- Range Anxiety – Well, first, it’s that range anxiety is still a big factor when it comes to the lack of EV adoption in the United States. This is obvious, given that the majority of these top 10 countries are quite compact and densely populated – excluding China, of course.When EVs are used in countries with a smaller geographic area, the range limitations that hold back EVs and PHEVs in larger countries, such as America, are not a concern. This is particularly true of areas where most individuals are driving in cities, rather than on longer, cross-country road trips.
- EV Infrastructure – Another large factor in the adoption of electric vehicles in these countries – and in California – is the fact that widespread EV infrastructure is available in most of them.The five Nordic countries have a combined population of only about 27 million – but together, command more than 8% of the world’s electric vehicles. Norway, Iceland and Sweden have the highest ratio of electric cars to people in the world – by far.The key to this is that the government and private investors alike have begun to create a true EV infrastructure. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other Nordic countries are actively encouraging the development of charging points and publicly-accessible vehicle chargers – see page 50 of this study for more details.
- EV Tax Credits And Incentives – Our final takeaway from this study is that tax credit and EV incentives are critical for EV sales. As we see with The Netherlands, removing the tax benefits of purchasing an EV or PHEV can cause sales to drop dramatically – even in a progressive, environmentally-friendly culture.
Almost all of the other regions on our list – California, China, Norway, and even Andorra have extremely good benefits, rebates and tax credits for purchasing EVs. In the future, as the price of EVs and PHEVs becomes similar to cars with internal combustion engines (ICE), these tax credits may become less important.
But in today’s economy, they’re still a critical factor in the widespread adoption of EVs – and will likely continue to be until the price of EVs begins to match the price of ICE-powered cars.
Looking Toward The Future – Widespread Adoption Of EVs Is Imminent
As manufacturing technologies become more advanced, and we continue to innovate and create batteries that provide better range and capacity, it’s only a matter of time before EV adoption becomes widespread – not just in progressive regions like the Nordic countries, but all across the world.
It’s just a matter of time until adoption is widespread. Bloomberg Energy Finance estimates that sales of EVs will overtake ICE vehicles by 2025-2030, and we think this is a relatively conservative prediction.
Until then, though, countries and areas who wish to spur early adoption of electric vehicles must begin building proper EV infrastructure, and encourage EV buyers with tax credits and other benefits. Until the price of EVs drops significantly, these incentives will be necessary, as buyers may otherwise be included to purchase a non-plug-in hybrid, or an internal combustion vehicle.
We hope this article has been educational and informative – and that you’ve learned a thing or two about EVs, the growth of EVs and PHEVs worldwide, and the future of electric cars.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.