Would it surprise you to know that the United States, as of the end of 2012, lead the world in passenger electric car sales? We currently hold a 38 percent worldwide market share, according to a new report recently issued by the Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI) at the Clean Energy Minsterial in New Delhi, India.

The report, prepared according to data provided by the 15 EVI member governments from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, shows that, by the end of last year, US passenger vehicle sales of electric vehicles were at 71,174. Total global sales of this type of personal transportation exceeded 180,000, which is substantially up from 50,000 in 2011.

2013 Nissan Leaf at 2013 Detroit Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)
2013 Nissan Leaf at 2013 Detroit Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

While this number appears significant, there are a couple of caveats to consider. One is that it could actually be slightly higher, given that EVI member countries held over 90 percent of the world EV stock at 2012’s close. The other is that electric vehicles sales are but a drop in the bucket compared to that of total passenger car stock, amounting to only 0.02 percent.

To get to this threshold, noted the EVI, its member governments “have already made substantial and consequential research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) investments in vehicle electrification” to the whopping tune of USD 8.7 billion in collective spending since 2008. There has been someway of a payoff on this though, with efforts helping reduce battery development costs by more than 50% in the last five years.

Given that many consumers are still lukewarm about buying the typically more expensive electric cars, strong government support has been seen as necessary to help motivate more to try out getting behind the wheel. Twelve out of 15 EVI countries offer financial support for vehicle purchases, and most also employ “a mix of financial and non-financial incentives (such as access to restricted highway lanes) to help drive adoption.”

The next most EV focused nation after the United States is not China, but rather Japan, coming in at over 44,700 electric vehicles and 24 percent of global share. France trails a distant third, with around 20,000 electric vehicles owned and 11 percent. These small numbers show the members of the EVI group have a long way to go to hit at least 20 million passenger car EVs, including plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles, by 2020.

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