Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Chart: These countries have the most electric vehicles per capita

Europe dominates the list, but China’s moving up in the rankings.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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Sales of electric cars are soaring. They more than doubled in just one year, from 3 million sold worldwide in 2020 to 6.6 million in 2021. But the growth is far from evenly distributed around the globe. A handful of countries are leading the charge (ahem). Here are the nations with the highest levels of EV ownership per capita as of 2020, the latest year for which this data is available.

Norway is way out ahead. (Remember GM’s Super Bowl ad with Will Ferrell last year?) The Nordic nation is in the No. 1 spot thanks to years of highly lucrative government incentives to promote EV sales. In 2021, close to eight in 10 new passenger vehicles sold in the country were all-electric. Norway has set a target to phase out sales of internal combustion engine cars by 2025, and it may reach that goal even sooner.

European countries take up seven of the top 10 spots on this chart. Tax policies incentivizing EVs over gasoline-powered vehicles have much to do with Europe’s lead on EVs, as do investments in building out charging networks.

China was No. 8 in EVs per capita in 2020, but you can expect its ranking to rise. EV sales in China nearly tripled between 2020 and 2021, rising to 3.4 million. In fact, more electric cars were sold in China in 2021 than were sold in the entire world the year before.

But while EVs made up 8.6 percent of new car sales in 2021, they represent just 1 percent of the world’s total car fleet. That share will need to grow to 20 percent by 2030 and 86 percent by 2050 to get the world on track for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. Fortunately, at least 10 automakers have already announced plans to switch over completely to electric vehicles in the coming years.

Correction: The original version of the chart incorrectly omitted the Netherlands. It has been updated with the most recent data available. We regret the error.

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.