Electric vehicle capitals of the world: Demonstrating the path to electric drive

Published by the International Council on Clean Transportation 6 Mar 2017.03.06 | By  Dale Hall, Marissa Moultak, Nic Lutsey


Assesses major cities around the world with high electric vehicle uptake and summarizes the policy, charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness actions in place to help develop the electric vehicle market in those cities.


This assessment identifies and analyzes major cities around the world that have the highest high electric vehicle uptake by new vehicle share and sales in 2015. The analysis also summarizes electric vehicle policy, charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness campaigns that are in place in each market to help develop the electric vehicle market. The analysis is conducted at the metropolitan area level to incorporate surrounding travel activity patterns outside the central urban area. The paper also includes a comparison of vehicle life-cycle emissions data to assess new vehicles carbon emission impact in the leading electric vehicle markets.

Based on this analysis, the top markets by electric vehicle share of new passenger vehicles are Oslo (27%), Utrecht (15%), Shanghai (11%), Shenzhen (10%), Amsterdam (10%), and San Jose (9.4%). In terms of total volume, the highest annual sales markets are Shanghai, Los Angeles, and Beijing, which recorded between 18,000 and 42,000 new electric vehicle registrations in 2015. Overall, the 14 electric vehicle capitals presented in this study had from two to above 30 times the global electric vehicle sales rate.

We highlight the following three findings:

Nearly a third of global electric vehicle sales are in just 14 electric vehicle capitals. Fourteen metropolitan areas, representing only about 1.5% of the global population, accounted for 32% of new electric vehicles in 2015. These hot spots for electric vehicle growth are demonstrating the first major steps toward the mainstream deployment and integration of new electric vehicle technologies.

Electric vehicle capital cities use a comprehensive suite of electric vehicle promotion actions to spur the market. High electric vehicle uptake markets address the prevailing electric vehicle consumer barriers of cost with incentives, convenience with extensive charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness with promotional campaigns. At the same time, these markets’ policy actions are tailored to unique local conditions, for example, to their geography, city layout, incentives, or vehicle licensing policies.

Electric vehicles deliver a low-carbon transport option. Cities that are accelerating the transition to electric drive are achieving significant carbon emission reductions in their transportation sector. Even after incorporating upstream emissions, electric vehicles provide carbon emission reduction benefits of 30% to more than 98% compared to conventional vehicles across the China, Europe, and U.S. markets. Further improvements are expected as the electric grids continue to decarbonize.

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Norway has the highest number of electric cars per capita

Norway said that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far in 2017, as Norway continues its trend towards becoming one of the most ecologically progressive countries in the world.

According to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council (OFV), cited by AFP, sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6 per cent of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8 per cent, for a combined 51.4 per cent.

Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world and the experiment shows every sign of accelerating.

The milestone is also particularly significant as a large proportion of Norway’s funds rely on the country’s petroleum industry

“This is a milestone on Norway’s road to an electric car fleet,” Climate and Environment minister Vidar Helgesen told AFP.

“The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 and … this requires the electrification of the car fleet,” he added.

Last year, the government agreed on a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered car starting in 2025. It also aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 85 grams per kilometre by 2020 – a goal it has almost achieved: the figure stood at 88 grams in February compared to 133 grams when the decision was taken five years ago.

A less likely technology might still be good to track:

We find that automakers who have historically been betting on hydrogen fuel cells over battery-powered vehicles, like Honda, are very focused on the speed of charging since it’s currently the only advantage fuel cells have over batteries.

While charge rates are obviously important, it’s not actually the biggest barrier to EV adoption since most people charge overnight. Nonetheless, Honda wants to give “unlimited range” to electric vehicles with a new dynamic charging technology at high speeds.

Honda doesn’t currently produce any all-electric vehicles, but it is reportedly going to offer battery-powered and PHEV versions of the Clarity, which was first developed to be a fuel cell hydrogen car.

While the dynamic charging technology isn’t likely to be implemented in those vehicles, Honda plans to demonstrate it at WCX 17 SAE World Congress Experience next month.

Dynamic charging requires charging hardware to be embedded into or over the road. It would basically create invisible train tracks for EVs to use and potentially drive continuously by wirelessly charging. Honda wrote in the paper they plan to present at SAE:

“Technology enabling to both supply power and perform charging while driving (dynamic charging) is being researched and developed as a means of addressing issues such as those above. If the amount of energy that can be supplied while driving does not at least exceed the driving energy of the traveling vehicle, then battery charging cannot be performed, and the vehicle would also need to continuously travel in a restricted lane in the manner of a train.”

The infrastructure cost is the main barrier when it comes to this technology, but maybe Honda will be offering solutions to the problem with this new system they are developing.

They claim that the system that they developed and tested for the study “enables dynamic charging with a charging power of 180 kW (DC 600 V, 300 A) while driving at a vehicle speed of 155 km/h (96 mph).”

In the short-term, dynamic charging is not expected to be an important part of the electric revolution in the automobile industry. But in the long-term and with the advent of autonomous driving, we could see the technology being used on sections of highways in order increase the on-road time of some vehicles, especially trucks.

In 2015, the UK approved off-road trials for wireless electric vehicle charging on highways. We could see more of those projects in the near future.