News & Features

EU and China Lead EV Sales as U.S. Lags
The Chinese bought about 1.1 million EVs in the first half of 2021. © xujun

EU and China Lead EV Sales as U.S. Lags

By Boris Kamchev - Sep 13, 2021

Drivers in China and the European Union bought most of the world’s electric vehicles in the first half of the year, while their counterparts in the United States are still wedded to their gas-guzzlers, according to figures published by automotive consultancy Canalys.

Global EV sales totalled 2.6 million units, including plug-in hybrids, an increase of 160% over the same period in 2020, the firm found. Of those vehicles, 87% were sold in China and the EU.

Demand in the EU for all new passenger cars grew by slightly more than 25% to almost 5.4 million units including 1 million EVs, according to figures gathered by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. This total is 1.5 million fewer than the first six months of 2019, before the pandemic, which ACEA ascribes to slowing sales of ICE vehicles.

In the depths of the pandemic in 2020, the European car market shrank by 24% to 9.9 million units for the full year. Sales in 2020 in China were also down, by 7% year-on-year to 19.3 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

The Chinese bought about 1.1 million EVs in the first half of 2021, accounting for 12% of all cars sold in the mainland of the country. At the same time across the Pacific, Americans bought about 250,000 EVs.

The trend in the U.S. was similar, with sales of new light-duty vehicles in 2020 falling back to 14.5 million, a drop of 15% compared with the same period in 2019, according to the National Automotive Association.

Even though the U.S. has a historic and innovative auto industry, as well as being home to the world’s most successful battery EV company Tesla, sales still lag behind the two leading markets.

“One of the reasons for the slow uptake of EVs in the U.S. is limited vehicle choice. But carmakers are set to launch the first EVs in the hugely popular pick-up truck segment in the U.S. soon. If they’re successful, the perception of EVs should quickly change,” said Sandy Fitzpatrick, vice president for automotive and e-mobility at Canalys, in a press release.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden recognizes the need for the country to catch-up with China and Europe in order to make the most of the financial and environmental benefits that EV greater EV penetration could bring. Biden signed an executive order in early August setting a goal for plug-in hybrids and BEVs to constitute half of new U.S. car sales by 2030. The initiative proposes a U.S. $174 billion investment with incentives and substantial charging infrastructure deployments to “win the EV market.”

“When governments commit to supporting the EV market with incentives, targets, penalties and investment, consumer adoption will increase – but it will not happen overnight, especially in the diverse U.S. market,” said Fitzpatrick.