US 1 Million EVs By 2015? No. Germany 1 Million By 2020? Yes

So the US isn’t going to hit 1 million electric cars by 2015? Bummer. Promised by President Obama back in his 2011 State of the Union speech, we are still far short of that sadly. Who might make it though five years after that date? Germany, at least according to one study released recently there.

The German goal of 1 million EVs on the road by 2020 is a goal many experts in that nation believe possible. If these vehicles follow in the same trends estimated by experts for other green car types, they could perhaps make it. Across the board, it is believed “hybrid engines will make up about 8 percent of German vehicles, or 4 million of an estimated 47 million cars, in 2020. This is followed by electric engines with approximately 3.9 percent, or 1.8 million vehicles, including plug-in hybrids whose batteries can also be charged via the national grid. Experts estimate that fuel cell vehicles could achieve a market share of 1.3 percent, which would amount to nearly 600,000 vehicles. Including gas-driven vehicles, alternative drive trains would thus number 8.4 million by 2020, a market share of around 18 percent.”

BMW i3 at 2012 LA Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

BMW i3 at 2012 LA Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

Here’s the catch though – only 6,000 or so electric cars have thus far sold there. How do you get that to 1 million in just seven years? It is the usual issues which need to be overcome that plague this car type regardless of what nation it might be in – range of the vehicles themselves, costs associated with with a full scale rollout and a lack of incentives for energy providers to “foster the development of electro-mobility” that plays out as a lack of adequate charging infrastructure due to it not being lucrative for those who would build it out.

You will also need more electric car offerings that offer different levels of comfort, pricing and performance. By the end of the year, for example, BMW’s i3 will be one of the first to attempt to tackle these items.

“One million vehicles still seems achievable in Germany by the year 2020,”  said Marko Kolbe , Senior Manager Investor Consulting – Mechanical & Electronic Technologies at Germany Trade & Invest, in a statement. “This is going to lead to opportunities not only for the supply industry but also the automotive industry.”

So the big question here – if the U.S. can’t get it done by 2015, and Germany thinks it can by 2020, what’s the difference going on here? If you have a thought on this, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.


I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.

    • phor11

      Even if we had an easy to access charging infrastructure, European traveling habits are simply much more conducive to EV’s than here in the US.

      So why will it work in Germany when it’s failing in the US?
      Population density and access to cheap public transportation.

      Average regular daily travel distances shorten as population density increases, and even if you do need to travel longer distances, access to cheap public transportation makes the short range and long recharge times palatable.

      Those are two problems with EV’s that really aren’t going to change until there is a major breakthrough in battery technology. So it stands to reason that European countries (and probably India/China/Japan as well) are going to be on the forefront of EV marketshare for a while.

    • My company is providing a 2 year lease bundled in with 20 kw carport system. Go USA!

    • The electric car can be the future but first:

      1/ There must be common standards for charging cords and power levels

      2/ Ideally, the battery compartments must be easily accessible, follow common standards of size and configuration, and allow the quick swap out of batteries for maintenance, repair and/or replacement as stronger and more environmentally friendly batteries come on to the market. Having to rip a car apart just to get to the batteries is illogical, dumb and potentially dangerous (think post accident…)

      3/ The industry started way too high-end in cost with so many luxury features. Finally some lower cost models like the iMiev are arriving. The industry desperately needs simple, very affordable bare bones models that still have quiet interiors and basic needs met. (think young buyers hooked on electronics that need low cost!)

      If you start low ($20K) and give a rebate of $7500, you can sell a car for $12,500!)

      4/ Boost the whole sector and make electricity for transport free. Right now the City of Austin is offering unlimited charging for $25 for 6 months which is almost free anyways. Every time you build a fortress of payment systems you complicate and slow down everything! Just have the utility measure the juice and pay for it within an innovative public-private partnership. Think… if I buy an electric my fuel is free!

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      Here is how it happens:
      Interest rates, incentives, infrastructure.
      Assuming a cycle of vehicle replacement of about 7 years, then one might assume that EVERYONE will be shopping for a vehicle between now and 2020. If you are German, you face high costs for fuel and for electricity. However, knowing that fuel and natural gas might be yanked by Russia at any time, or at least have their prices suddenly kicked up, you will probably want to go for electric… just in case.
      So Germans are probably going to buy an EV or hybrid anyway just because Germany is not the US.
      But German government will also support the market with incentives. Interest rates will be low. And there is a burgeoning solar infrastructure there that likely makes charging your own EV at home cheap cheap cheap in cash terms if not in economic terms.

      Just to bolster the argument, Japan will have similar, if not better outcomes than Germany, largely because of identical conditions.

      So there it is. The US could catch up in one or two years if it had a carbon tax, but that ain’t going to happen. US consumers will have low gas prices, low natural gas prices, and nuclear generated electricity. Like Alfred E. Newman, Uncle Sam just says “What me worry?” and lets everyone else shoulder the burden of sustainable energy systems.

      • Jortiz3

        The nuclear generation capacity in the US offsets roughly 1 billion tons of CO2 per year. Germany would have to make a sale of roughly 20 million zero-emission cars ( 30 million including construction emissions, offsetting roughly 100 grams / kilometer over a 300,000 km lifetime) EACH YEAR to offset the same amount of carbon dioxide, at a cost of 750 billion dollars a year. Assuming a 10% subsidized rate, 75 billion dollars would be the tax price tag. 20%, 150 billion. 75 Billion dollars invested instead into purchasing more reactors would offset (using the recent 4500MW Turkey reactor’s construction as a metric) over a 50 year plant life roughly 6 (or 12 if 20% subsidy rate) billion tons of CO2, over SIX to TWELVE TIMES more CO2 than would have been offset by the subsidizing of hybrids and EVs.

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      Wanted to post this separately, so it is not a double post.

      Everybody knows the difference between hybrid, plug in hybrid, and EV. Maybe the numbers presented in the article should be analyzed a little differently. As PHOR points out, EV really demands a lot of geography, infrastructure, drivers, and pocketbooks. Let me venture that Germans are not really known for mixing in a lot of “practicality” with their environmental and energy decisions as a nation. The US probably goes too far the other way, as far as that goes.

      If German people can go, shall I say, overboard? in their installation of solar PV in a crash program, and if they can just decide to abandon nuclear power based on something that happened 6000 miles away, then a million people choosing to buy EVs is not farfetched at all. In the best meaning of the word, those people are fanatics. Their behavior is not surprising at all.

      Pay attention to the others though. Hybrid and Plug-in hybrids don’t require much at all in the way of infrastructure. They are more robust, practical vehicles. They have no problems with long distance travel at low cost. It might be wrong to judge the US harshly if they wind up with 20 million hybrids on the road vs. Germany’s 4 million. Toyota, Ford and other hybrid makers might not get there, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

      So, you know, America’s glass is half full, not half empty.

    • “who you gonna believe, me… or your lying eyes” that’s what’s missing. people don’t trust the end game. will this all work and be affordable, reliable, and deliver on the promise of cheap or free operation. on the grand scale it has to acheive. or will it burn out and prove to be an exercise in futility , like all the PROPAGANDA has been teaching us for literally 40 years. free your mind. and free energy will follow.