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Leon Kaye headshot

For Electric Cars, 2021 Was a Fantastic Year Worldwide

The IEA has concluded that the worldwide sales of electric cars during 2021 amounted to 6.6 million, more than doubling the total number sold in 2020.
By Leon Kaye
Electric Cars

A Ford Mustang Mach-E in Houston, Texas

If market share matters, it turns out that 2021 was a banner year for electric cars. Despite ongoing consumer concerns over range and negative news linked to automakers like Tesla and GM, the numbers show that electric cars are on course to revolutionize how we drive (and refuel).

This week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that the sales of electric cars during 2021 amounted to 6.6 million, more than doubling the total number sold in 2020 and tripling the number that rolled out of showrooms in 2019. That’s a market share of 9 percent.

To put these numbers in context, in 2012, 130,000 electric cars were sold worldwide. Now, that total is sold in a single week.

Currently, the IEA estimates that 16 million electric cars are on roads and highways across the globe.

The vast majority of electric cars were purchased in China (3.4 million) and Europe (2.3 million). More of these vehicles were sold in China alone last year than worldwide in 2020. Half a world away, sales of electric cars across Europe surged by 70 percent from 2020 numbers. As for the U.S., total sales in 2021 tallied up to around half a million, doubling market share to 4.5 percent.

The IEA gives the automakers their fair share of credit for this global increase in sales. “Government policies remain the key driving force for global electric car markets, but their dynamism in 2021 also reflects a very active year on the part of the automotive industry,” noted the authors of this IEA report.

Such commitments suggest that the automobile sector’s ongoing pledges on electrification may very well have substance to them. The last few years have been a confusing time, as automakers have announced electrification plans, while often eliminating smaller sedans and compact cars in favor of SUVs and pickup trucks.

Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford are among the automakers that have announced such plans over the past year. While infrastructure has a long way to go to support the industry’s promise of an all-electric future, it is clear that consumers are buying into this vision. The release of more models in the coming months could create even more excitement over electric cars.

If all-electric pickups become mainstream, that push could boost these numbers come 2022. “Though there has been a steady increase in the choice of electric passenger vehicles over the last decade, 2022 will be the year when truck buyers can finally get in on the action,” TriplePundit’s Phil Covington wrote on New Year’s Eve.

If you’re looking to what an all-electric future could look like, take a glance at Norway. Long a trailblazer in the slow but steady shift to electric cars, January sales showed how these vehicles have become consumers’ preferred drive by far. In a month that was slow overall for passenger car sales, 84 percent of all new car sales in Norway were electric – with 19 of the 20 top selling models requiring a plug, not a tank, to power up. The list included models from Audi, Hyundai, BMW and Kia.  

Image credit: Adrian N via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye