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Global electric car sales double in 2021, to hit record 6.6m- IEA

Global electric car sales double in 2021, to hit record 6.6m- IEA

Global sales of electric cars, including fully electric and plug-in hybrids, doubled in 2021 to a new record of 6.6 million, with more now sold each week than in the whole of 2012, said the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a new report.

Despite strains along global supply chains, sales kept rising strongly into 2022, with 2 million electric cars sold worldwide in the first quarter, up by three-quarters from the same period a year earlier, according to IEA’s latest edition of the annual Global Electric Vehicle Outlook.

According to the IEA, this was due to sustained policy support, which has been one of the main reasons for strong sales in many markets, with overall public spending on subsidies and incentives more than doubling to nearly $30 billion in 2021.

“Few areas of the new global energy economy are as dynamic as electric vehicles. The success of the sector in setting new sales records is extremely encouraging, but there is no room for complacency,” said IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol.

The report also highlighted how the number of electric cars on the world’s roads by the end of 2021 was about 16.5 million, triple the amount in 2018.

“Policymakers, industry executives and investors need to be highly vigilant and resourceful in order to reduce the risks of supply disruptions and ensure sustainable supplies of critical minerals,” IEA explained.

In China, electric car sales nearly tripled in 2021 to 3.3 million, accounting for about half of the global total. Sales also grew strongly in Europe (increasing by 65% to 2.3 million) and the United States (more than doubling to 630 000).

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Chinese electric cars are typically smaller than in other markets. Alongside lower manufacturing costs, this has significantly reduced the price gap with traditional cars.

“Under its new Ministerial mandate, the IEA is working with governments around the world on how to strategically manage resources of critical minerals that are needed for electric vehicles and other key clean energy technologies,” IEA said.

IEA stated that an increasing number of countries have ambitious vehicle electrification targets for the coming decades, and many automakers have plans to electrify their fleets that exceed policy targets.

“Five times more electric car models were available globally in 2021 than in 2015, and the number of available models reached 450 by the end of 2021,” it said.

In the short term, the most significant barriers to continued strong EV sales are rising prices for some critical minerals used in battery manufacturing, as well as supply chain disruptions caused by Russia’s attack on Ukraine and on-going Covid-19 lockdowns in some parts of China, it said.

Longer-term efforts are needed to build enough charging infrastructure to support the expected growth in electric car sales, according to the report.

Other countries, however, have announced plans for heavy truck electrification, and manufacturers are expanding their model lineup. Long-distance trucks necessitate high-power charges, which are currently expensive and frequently necessitate grid upgrades.

The new IEA report recommends greater government support and planning for public charging infrastructure. Other recommendations include using stringent vehicle efficiency and carbon dioxide emission standards to underpin demand for EVs.

“Prioritizing two- and three-wheelers and urban buses to jumpstart EVs in emerging and developing markets, as well as encouraging more investment in critical mineral extraction while adhering to environmentally and socially sustainable practices to ensure adequate supplies to power the clean energy transition.”