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Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Chart: EVs could make up more than a third of global car sales by 2030

A new electric-vehicle forecast from the IEA is a big upward revision from just a year ago, underscoring the speed of the global EV revolution.
By Dan McCarthy

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(Michael Marais/Unsplash)

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

The global shift to electric vehicles is unfolding much faster than was expected even one year ago.

By 2030, electric vehicles — including both fully electric and plug-in hybrid models — could make up 35 percent of new vehicle sales globally, according to a forecast included in the International Energy Agency’s annual Global EV Outlook report released last week. Last year, the IEA had placed that figure more than 10 percentage points lower, at less than 25 percent. This particular forecast is based on currently enacted policies, not as-yet-unsubstantiated promises.

In large part, the upward revision comes courtesy of the United States passing the Inflation Reduction Act last August, a law that contains tens of billions of dollars in incentives for electric-vehicle purchases and production. Although EVs made up just 8 percent of new vehicle sales in the U.S. last year, the IEA forecasts that they will account for more than one-fifth of new auto sales in the country by 2025. And as the report notes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed auto emissions limits would further accelerate the country’s EV embrace if adopted.

But even with all of its policy progress, the U.S. is not the primary driver of surging global EV adoption. The key player is China, and has been for some time.

More than half of the 26 million EVs on the road as of last year are in China. That makes sense: It’s the world’s largest auto market, with more than 20 million vehicles sold in 2022 alone. The country is also home to a rising star in the EV world: BYD, which became the No. 1 vehicle brand in China’s massive market last quarter. That’s No. 1 among all automakers — not just fellow EV companies. It unseated Volkswagen, which had held the top spot in China for at least 15 years.

Through the end of this decade, the IEA expects the U.S. to continue lagging behind both China and Europe in terms of the percentage of new car sales that are electric. China is forecast to have EVs account for 62 percent of new car sales by 2030, while Europe could be close behind at 58 percent. The U.S. is projected to hit 50 percent that year.

The transportation sector is one of the main contributors to carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and passenger EVs account for a large proportion of those emissions. Although alternatives like expanding public transportation or making car-free lifestyles more accessible could have a bigger impact on reducing emissions, the rapid uptake of battery-powered vehicles is widely seen as essential to meeting climate goals.

This new forecast for global EV adoption depicts a trajectory that is increasingly aligned with the imperative to ditch fossil-fueled vehicles. But the transition needs to happen faster still to help get the world to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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Dan McCarthy is news editor at Canary Media.