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In 2020, Europe surpassed China as the world leader in EV sales.
Photo provided by SEDA-Umwelttechnik GmbH.

EV sales rose 40 percent despite pandemic

International Energy Agency predicts global EV fleet will number from 145 million to 230 million by 2030.

April 29, 2021

The global auto industry suffered a 16 percent drop in sales in 2020, but the electric vehicle (EV) market bucked the wider trend with growth of more than 40 percent, according to report published by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) in late April.

While in 2021 recyclers are still encountering few EVs as end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), the radically different set of components and battery configurations that comprise EVs will affect scrap generated by manufacturers, metals prices and eventually auto shredder feedstock.

The IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 report concludes that despite the COVID-19 pandemic setting off economic downturns, a record 3 million new electric cars were registered in 2020, a 41 percent increase from the previous year. By comparison, the global automobile market contracted 16 percent in 2020.

The strong momentum of EVs has continued into this year, says the IEA, with sales in the first quarter of 2021 reaching nearly two and half times their level in the same period one year earlier.

Last year’s increase brought the number of electric cars on the world’s roads to more than 10 million, joined by another roughly 1 million electric vans, heavy trucks and buses. For the first time last year, Europe overtook China as the center of the global electric car market. Electric car registrations in Europe more than doubled to 1.4 million, while in China they increased 9 percent to 1.2 million.

“While they can't do the job alone, EVs have an indispensable role to play in reaching net-zero emissions worldwide,” says Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. Birol adds, “Governments should now be doing the essential groundwork to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by using economic recovery packages to invest in battery manufacturing and the development of widespread and reliable charging infrastructure.”

EVs appear poised for significant growth in the 2020s, the new IEA report finds. Based on current trends and policies, it projects the number of electric cars, vans, heavy trucks and buses on the road worldwide to reach 145 million by 2030. The global fleet could rise as has high as 230 million if governments accelerate efforts to subsidize or support sales of EVs.

In 2020, consumer spending on electric cars increased by 50 percent globally, reaching $120 billion. The IEA calculates government support measures as providing $14 billion in support, “the fifth year in a row in which they have fallen as a share of total spending.” The IEA adds, “This suggests sales are increasingly being driven more by consumer choice.”

Automakers offered 370 electric car models in 2020, a 40 percent year-on-year increase. Eighteen of the 20 largest automakers have announced intentions to further increase the number of available models and boost production of electric light-duty vehicles. These automakers account for 90 percent of all global auto sales, according to the IEA.

The report indicates the shift of the road transport sector toward EVs extends beyond cars. The most electrified road transport mode today is two- and three-wheeled vehicles – such as motorcycles and mopeds – with more than 25 million units sold, the bulk of them in Asia. Urban bus fleets also are electrifying, says IEA. Heavy trucks are a segment where electric models and sales have only recently begun to grow, as battery performance has improved and driving ranges have lengthened.

The IEA describes its Global EV Outlook report as an annual publication that identifies and discusses recent developments in electric mobility around the world. The full IEA report on EVs can be downloaded from this web page