It’s Official: Electric Car Sales Have Doubled Every Year For Three Years

The number of electrically powered vehicles in the world now totals more than 400,000 vehicles, and has been doubling for the past few years.

All types of electric cars were counted in the study, but not electric motorcycles, busses, or commercial vehicles.

All types of electric cars were counted in the study, but not electric motorcycles, busses, or commercial vehicles.

That’s according to academics at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW), who have been examining global electric car sales figures and the annual growth rate of the electric car marketplace.  Their conclusion? Electric car rates have been doubling every year for the past three years, and could reach 1 million vehicles globally if trends continue by 2016.

Massive growth

In its research, the ZSW tallied global sales figures for all electric cars, including plug-in hybrid and range-extended electric cars. It did not include motorcycles, bicycles, trucks or other commercial vehicles like busses in its calculations. Nor did it include hybrid cars.

There's a clear upward trend, almost doubling every year. Graphic: ZSW

There’s a clear upward trend, almost doubling every year. Graphic: ZSW

In early 2012, there were almost 100,000 plug-in cars on the world’s roads. A year later the report says, there were 200,000 vehicles. To date, there are now an estimated 405,000 electric cars globally, with the magic 400,000 barrier crossed some time late in 2013 or early 2014.

If this trend continues, the report says, we’ll see more than 1 million electric plug-in cars on the roads by 2016.

By contrast, there are believed to be around six million hybrid electric (non plug-in) cars in the world.

USA, Japan, China Lead

In terms of sales figures, the academics at ZSW noted that the U.S. currently leads electric car sales figures, with 174,000 of the 400,000 electric cars sold to date residing in the U.S. Japan comes in second place, with 68,000 electric vehicles, while China lays in third pace with 45,000.

It’s worth noting however, that this is likely to change as China increases incentives and investment in all-electric transportation in an effort to tackle the nation’s notorious air pollution.

As for Europe? It trails behind the U.S. and Asia, with Norway and the Netherlands both sharing significant electric car sales. While the ZSW hasn’t detailed sales for Norway, it says just under 30,000 electric cars are registered in the Netherlands.

Nissan leads the manufacturer list, with Tesla coming in fourth.

Nissan leads the manufacturer list, with Tesla coming in fourth.

Germany comes in seventh place, with 17,500 registered electric cars. Meanwhile, the UK has such poor sales figures and predictions that it’s almost impossible to read the figures from the graph accompanying the report.

LEAF ahead

With more than 100,000 examples sold, the Nissan LEAF is well ahead of the competition in terms of global electric car market share. While the report cites 90,000 electric LEAFs had been sold at the point of study, we know that figure now to be far higher, having crossed the 100,000th mark earlier this year.

In second place, comes the Chevrolet Volt and its sibling the Opel (Vauxhall) Ampera. While we don’t have accurate global sales figures for this car at the time of writing, the study placed sales at 60,000 units globally, representing a sales figure about two thirds of that of the LEAF at the time of the report.

Plug-in hybrid and range-extended EVs were included, but not hybrid cars.

Plug-in hybrid and range-extended EVs were included, but not hybrid cars.

In third place is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which had sold an estimated 40,000 cars globally at the time of the study, while the Tesla Model S comes in fourth.

A promising future

With a few exceptions — the UK being one of them — it looks as if electric car sales figures really are growing at an almost unstoppable rate, doubling every year and showing no signs of slowing.

For those of us who prefer plugs to pumps then, this is just the news to help dispel those persistent electric car myths that electric cars are slow, boring, overly priced and not popular.

Of course, there’s one more positive thing to note, too: with electric car adoption growth comes increased production, which translates to better economies of scale and ultimately, cheaper electric cars.

We can’t wait.

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Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
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Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Self-confessed geek and mother of two, Nikki has been talking and writing about cars ever since she passed her driving test. Back then, her Internet contributions were all classic car-focused. Now, she’s all about greener, cleaner, safer and smarter cars.
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
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