by Julia Pyper
February 07, 2019

Electric vehicle sales are trending up all across the globe. From Australia to England, the U.S. to China, recent polls and reports show interest in e-mobility growing.

Whether it's passenger EV purchases or corporate procurement commitments, public support for policy initiatives or technology trends, most of the latest indicators are positive. But it's not all good news. A closer look at recent developments shows infrastructure lacking, certain policies failing and the EV adoption rate slowing.

Below I offer five stats marking the current status of global EV growth. 

31 companies commit to switching their road fleets to EVs

Vehicle electrification is quickly becoming the hottest new trend in corporate responsibility. The Climate Group recently reported that 31 companies, with combined revenue of more than $500 billion, have now pledged to transition their road fleets to plug-in vehicles through the EV100 initiative.

The Climate Group has a target to electrify more than 2 million vehicles by 2030. EV100 participants include Ikea, Unilever, EDF and Heathrow Airport.

According to the first annual EV100 report, which covers the commitments of 23 member companies, 95 percent of businesses cite reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a “very significant” or “significant” driver for switching to electric. Just one-third of the companies covered in the report identify financial savings as an incentive.

In fact, the economics of EVs remain a problem for corporate buyers. The EV100 report found that the capital costs for EVs are a “very significant” issue for 33 percent of companies surveyed. A lack of charging infrastructure and a lack of EV options were also cited as significant issues.

Despite the barriers, an increasing number of corporations are going electric to “future-proof” their businesses. EV costs are coming down as clean air policies around the world are becoming more restrictive. More and more companies are expected to get on board with electrification as this trend continues.

“With countries pledging to end sales of the combustion engine and cities bringing in low- or zero-emissions zones, forward-thinking companies are getting ahead of the curve now by switching to electric vehicles,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group.

“The private sector has an instrumental part to play in bringing down emissions and cleaning up our air, and there are big opportunities for companies taking action now,” she said.

Brits registered an EV every 9 minutes in 2018

The U.K.’s Brexit deal may be stalled, but EV sales are accelerating. Figures from the industry and the government-backed Go Ultra Low campaign found that 59,911 all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were registered in the U.K. last year, up 19 percent from 2017. That translates to a new EV registered on average every 9 minutes.

The total number of registered plug-in cars in the U.K. is now approaching 200,000 (there were 196,343 at the end of last year). 

Plug-in hybrids accounted for a significant majority of the market, with 74 percent of registrations. This comes in contrast to California, where battery electric vehicles are outpacing plug-in hybrid sales.

Pure EVs saw a significant boost in the U.K. in 2018, however, with sales up 14 percent from the previous year.

Overall, the U.K. experienced its seventh consecutive year of EV market growth last year. The trend is expected to continue into 2019 when new models like the Kia e-Niro, Audi e-tron and the new Nissan Leaf e+ become available (side note: the U.K. government offered Nissan $100 million to ease the automaker’s uncertainty over Brexit). Supportive policies, such as London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, will also help to promote greater EV adoption.

Recent research by Go Ultra Low found that nearly a fifth (18 percent) of Brits would like to make the switch to an electric vehicle in 2019. 

79 percent of Australians support the government building out EV charging stations (but few government officials do)

The Australian public is strongly in favor of enacting more ambitious EV policies. A recent poll by The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program found that 79 percent of respondents support the government building a network of EV charging stations, and 76 percent said they support the government purchasing EVs for its own fleet.

In addition, 74 percent of respondents support rebates to promote the installation of charging stations, 73 percent support a requirement for all new apartments to offer charging, and 55 percent support the government offering loans to drivers for purchasing an EV.

Support for favorable EV policies spanned the political spectrum, with strong backing from all voter groups. Where support was weakest — across the board — was for increasing taxes on petroleum and on internal combustion engine vehicles. A slight majority of respondents (56 percent) also opposed dedicated EV parking spaces.

So while Australians may not be ready to give up their gas-guzzlers, they are supportive of promoting EVs. The poll found they’re also in favor of requiring new cars to be more fuel-efficient. 

“Australia has a high-polluting transport sector, transport emissions have increased 59 percent since 1990 and continue to climb,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute, in a statement. “There are numerous, popular policies available to the government to help drive this...including changing their fleet to electric vehicles.”

But while a majority of Australian residents are supportive of stronger EV policies, a majority of Australian lawmakers are not. Australia’s two biggest political parties recently refused to back policy incentives for EV purchases and a 25 percent EV sales target by 2025, causing the measure to fail. The country’s existing target was for EV sales to make up just 0.2 percent in 2017.

Independent senator Tim Storer succeeded in completing an inquiry into EVs, but could not win the support of the Labor party or the Coalition government. The two parties agreed only to the proposition that a target should be considered, along with possibility of emissions standards for vehicles and a plan for infrastructure, The Driven reports

Global EV sales to increase by "only" 40 percent in 2019

EV sales in the U.S. last year increased by 81 percent over 2017. Globally, EV sales were up by 70 percent in 2018, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There are now almost 5 million passenger EVs on the road worldwide, and more than 5 million EVs when including buses and other commercial vehicles. 

In 2019, however, the growth rate is expected to slow.

BNEF forecasts an additional 2.6 million EVs to be sold in 2019, which will represent around a 40 percent growth rate, down from the 70 percent growth rate in 2018. China will continue to lead the global EV market, but the country’s recent doubling of EV sales each year is unlikely to continue in 2019.

BNEF noted that China plans to cut EV subsidies in February, with a phase-out period that lasts through the second quarter. China’s “New Energy Vehicle” quota takes effect this year, but the requirements for 2019 are relatively modest. 

“Broader macroeconomic factors (higher interest rates and slowing consumer spending) will also impact global sales,” Colin McKerracher, BNEF’s head of advanced transport, wrote in a recent brief. “In markets like the U.S. and the U.K., direct purchase subsidies are already starting to wind down.”

On the bright side, strong historical growth in the EV sector means that 40 percent global growth is still significant.

Battery prices to reach $94 per kilowatt-hour by 2024

Technology cost declines will continue to drive EV adoption, particularly with incentives in China, U.S. and elsewhere scheduled to decline.

Battery prices are the key to EV affordability. Luckily for the burgeoning market, the numbers are headed in the right direction. 

According to BNEF, lithium-ion battery packs are forecast to reach $94 per kilowatt-hour by 2024, which marks the point when EVs start reaching price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles. By 2030, BNEF expects battery pack prices to hit $62 per kilowatt-hour.

Wood Mackenzie expects prices to drop a little slower. The firm expects battery pack prices to fall below the critical threshold of $100 per kilowatt-hour by 2027.