Chart: Which countries buy the most EVs?

The top spots are dominated by Nordic nations — while the U.S. barely makes the top 20.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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A car lot with many electric vehicles, surrounding by a yellow border and the words chart of the week
(VCG/Getty Images)

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

Electric cars made up nearly 10% of total car sales globally last year, and a much higher share in many northern European countries, according to the newest Global EV Outlook from the International Energy Agency. The Nordic nations — Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland — take the five top spots in our chart of countries with the highest EV market penetration in 2021.

The top 12 spots in the chart go to European countries, which have been ahead on EV adoption for years due to tax policies that incentivize the purchase of EVs over gasoline-powered vehicles. On top of those incentives, a number of these countries now have targets or laws calling for entirely phasing out new gas cars in the coming years. EVs made up the majority of car sales last year in two countries: Norway, way ahead of everyone else at 86%, and Iceland, at 72%. Norway, Iceland and Sweden also rank the highest when it comes to having the most EVs on the road per capita.

China, 13th on this chart, has also made huge strides in EV adoption — and it has become the world leader in EV manufacturing. According to reporting from The New York Times last year, China will be making over eight million electric cars a year by 2028…compared with one million” in 2020. And when it comes to total numbers of electric cars sold, China is already far outpacing every other country.

The only other non-European countries that make the top 20 are Canada, South Korea, the U.S. and New Zealand, taking the bottom four spots.

The electric car market has been growing at a dramatic rate, and that’s expected to continue. In 2021, 6.6 million EVs were sold worldwide. The IEA puts that in context: Back in 2012, just 120,000 electric cars were sold worldwide. In 2021, more than that many [were] sold each week.” This year, 2 million EVs were sold around the globe in just the first three months — 75% more than in the same time period last year. 

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.