The global auto market steadily electrified in 2020
For most folks, 2020 won’t go down in history as a very good year, but for the auto industry, it was a turning point. Global sales of plug-in vehicles reached 3.24 million (as reported by EV-Volumes), compared to 2.26 million in 2019. That’s an upsurge of about 43%, which is all the more remarkable considering that overall global light vehicle sales fell by 14%.
Above: The transition to electric vehicles is starting to happen all over the globe (Source: EVANNEX; Photo by Casey Murphy)
The center of the action was Europe, which surpassed China as the motor of EV growth for the first time since 2015. Plug-in sales in Europe (EU countries plus the UK, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) increased by 137% compared to 2019, while the overall vehicle market was down by 20%. Plug-in vehicles’ share of the overall auto market increased from 3.3% in 2019 to 10.2% in 2020.
The EU’s new, more stringent emissions requirement appeared to be the main driver of the boom, but incentive increases in several countries and a wave of new models also contributed to the voltage surge.
Above: A look back at late 2019 comments from non-Tesla auto executives reveals a desire for more charging and government incentives (YouTube: Bloomberg)
Most of the action was in the second half of the year, and the sales frenzy reached fever pitch in December—EV capital Norway set a new record for the month, when 87% of new cars sold were plug-ins, and 66% pure EVs.
In China, sales of “new energy vehicles” (NEVs) recovered from a dismal first half to post a 12% gain for the year. The market share of NEVs showed a modest increase from 5.1% in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020.
The US continues to lag behind—plug-in sales increased by a paltry 4%, a figure that looks pretty good relative to the overall auto market’s loss of 15%. Tesla consolidated its domination of the US market—the California carmaker accounted for 79% of all pure EV sales. The inauguration of a new, more EV-friendly administration, combined with the impending launch of several electric pickups, seem bound to deliver a bigger sales surge in 2021.
Smaller auto markets were mixed. Plug-in sales actually fell in Japan (-28%) and Canada (-7%), but soared in South Korea (+55%) and Taiwan (+308%).