• Electric car sales continued to grow in 2020 and global electric car stock passed the 10 million milestone.
  • Europe became the world's largest EV market for the first time.
  • China still had the largest number of electric cars on its roads with a total of 4.5 million.
  • However, the world is still at the beginning of its transition to clean energy.

Despite 2020 being a sluggish year for the global automobile industry, electric car sales continued to grow. According to the latest edition of the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook, electric passenger car sales climbed despite the total automobile industry contracting by 16 percent. While Europe overtook China to become the world's largest EV market for the first time last year, China still had the largest number of electric cars on its roads last year with a total stock of 4.5 million.

As the following chart shows, the past decade has been one of rapid growth for electric cars, even though we’re still at the beginning of the transition to cleaner, more sustainable mobility. Despite the fact that the number of electric passenger cars in use globally increased from close to zero to 10.2 million between 2010 and 2020, electric cars and plug-in hybrids accounted for just 4.6 percent of global passenger car sales last year.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

a graph showing that the global electric car stock passes the 10 million milestone
The past decade has been one of rapid growth for electric cars.
Image: Statista