Fourth Industrial Revolution

Which countries are speeding ahead with electric cars?

A charging cable is seen on an electric car at ABB Inc.'s DC fast charging station in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 30, 2014. The level three 480v rate charging station is able to charge a car in 10 to 40 minutes and is the first station of it's kind in the Salt Lake area

Image: REUTERS/George Frey

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Fourth Industrial Revolution is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Germany has announced a plan to subsidize electric cars, with manufacturers footing part of the bill. The total €1.2 billion subsidy pool will be offered on a first come first served basis for vehicles priced less than €60,000.

From May, German car buyers will receive a subsidy of €4,000 when buying an electric car. The incentive will stay in place until no later than 2020.

The electric car market in Germany remains small, with just 23,481 electric vehicles sold last year. The government hopes this subsidy will boost sales to get half a million new electric cars on the road in the next four years.

Which countries are doing the most to encourage electric cars?

 Upfront incentives for EVs in major auto markets
Image: Financial Times

As this chart shows, several of the world’s largest auto markets are incentivizing people to switch to electric vehicles. Germany is now one of them.

Here is a snapshot of the situation in four countries around the world:


The emerging middle class in China represents a significant market for electric vehicles. Sales are on the up, boosted by a generous incentive programme. Infrastructure investment also aims to boost electric car ownership. Beijing plans to install more than 400,000 charging points by 2020.

A Chinese firm has also just announced an electric car that can be voice-controlled, giving it autonomous capabilities. The LeSEE reportedly drove itself out of a shipping container and on to a stage, under the control of the manufacturer’s CEO, Jia Yueting.

Electric vehicle sales in China 2011-2015
Image: Bloomberg

United States

The situation in the US is complicated by differences between states. However, national incentives do exist. A tax credit system is in place, with the level varying based on the type of battery and vehicle weight. According to the US Department of Energy, the credit is anywhere between US$2,500 and $7,500.

The announcement of Tesla’s new Model 3 also highlights the continued role of American companies in the electric vehicle market.


Subsidies and investment in infrastructure saw more electric vehicles sold in the Netherlands last year than in any other European country.

Electric vehicles are exempt from road tax, and further tax breaks are available on the purchase of new vehicles. The development of the necessary infrastructure is also driving sales. The E-laad Foundation (or E-load, if translated into English) is aiming to boost the number of electric charging points across the Netherlands.


Norway is often credited with leading the world in the charge towards electric vehicles. Although not a major auto market, the sales of all electric vehicles are reportedly growing faster than anywhere else. Very generous incentives, such as exemptions from value-added tax and free travel on toll roads, have been so successful that last year the Norwegian government was forced to review them.

This chart from the first quarter of 2015 shows the growth in the electric vehicle market in Norway.

 Norway leads the world's electric vehicle market
Image: Statista
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Space: The $1.8 Trillion Opportunity for Global Economic Growth

Bart Valkhof and Omar Adi

February 16, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum