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Top 10 Countries in the Global EV Revolution: 2016 Edition

World’s Top 10 Plug-In Car Manufacturers – 2016 January-December

Its surprising by some of the new names near the top; but all have earned their spots there. Also, while in 2014, there are only 6 countries that merit getting on the list, and in 2015 – 7 countries, for 2016, at least 9 countries that already play a substantially positive role in the electrification of global ground transport.
A couple of important EV countries have even been left out; see if you can spot them! For example, a score of 80-90 would be won by a country nearing 50% EV market share with rapid year-over-year increase, strong EV bus sales, solid infrastructure/policy support, and either having an auto industry well on the transition to EV-making, or at least carrying part of its EV-demand weight in terms of battery production (the maximum possible score with no auto industry and no EV battery production, is 80 points). The score does not include 2-wheelers.
Right now, no country is anywhere close to 80 points. In fact, only 2 countries cross 50 points. Keep in mind that only 39 countries, two-thirds of them in Europe, participate in the list. The rest lack numbers, and many of them probably see no EV action at all.
Last note: please don’t quibble too much about the ordering of the countries in positions 4-10, as they are separated by no more than ~3 points top to bottom.

9th place: Netherlands, 36 points

Fastned, and its extensive DCFC public charging network, is a significant player in the Netherlands

Claim to fame: high but uneven market share in a PHEV-dominated market.
Netherlands boasts the world’s #3 EV market share, but it’s down from #2 and last year’s 6% share represents a precipitous drop from 2015 when it neared 10%. Moreover, >80% of sales are PHEVs. Both are the result of rather funky and inconsistent EV policies. The Netherlands does have some e-bus activity; according to Zeeus, its electric bus fleet is among the largest 5 in the continent, which probably means 100-odd buses.

8th place: France, 37 points

BEV Registrations in France (through December 2016)

Claim to fame: EVs’ stable “Oak Tree” country continues to forge ahead, but not fast enough to stay in the Top 5.
In 2016, France’s EV market share, still BEV-dominated, inched up to 1.7%. Curiously, France is the last country where “Pokemon EV” Mitsubishi I-Miev is still popular, selling in the thousands in 2016 under 3 different nameplates, 2 of them French (but shipped ready-made from Japan).
France got a bonus point for Renault’s launching the 41-kWh Zoe and 33-kWh Kangoo, but it happened too late in the year to cause a sales surge.

7th and 6th Place : Japan and Korea, 38 points.

The new Toyota Prius Prime (or Prius Plug-In as it is known in all places not the US) may help put Japan back on the map

Claim to fame: leading EV-making country continues to stagnate, meets rising EV-making power with a bitter historical score to settle. Both make many GWh’s of EV batteries.
Japan still makes the world’s best selling EV for 2016 (Leaf). However, its domestic EV share continues to decrease, while Korea’s jumped by ~2.5x last year, mostly thanks to the introduction of the Hyundai Ioniq late in the year. Meanwhile Korea is thinking outside the box about electric buses; in mid-2016 a bus line in Jeju Island switched to electric buses with swappable batteries, and the country also leads the development of buses that get wirelessly charged as they go. Both approaches can help reduce the size of the battery that needs to sit inside the bus itself.
Both countries ended 2016 around a rather underwhelming 0.4% market share. The reason they are in the Top 10 at all, is that they are two-thirds of the world’s 3-country oligopoly over EV lithium-ion battery production.
Japan and Korea supply practically all of the batteries appearing in Western-made EVs. They demonstrate that high-income countries can be leading battery makers: no excuse for farming it out of sight to poorly-regulated plants in poor countries.
But if the Prius Prime doesn’t take off, or the Gen 2 Leaf gets delayed again or underwhelms the audience, Japan might drop out of the top 10 this year. What a fall for a country that was arguably the world’s #1 in 2011.

5th Place : USA, 38-plus points.

US EV market share finally started expanding more aggressively in the second half of 2016

Claim to fame: Home of the Tesla, Volt and Bolt renews its growth, but is bumped down the list by a couple of upstarts.
The USA’s EV market gets so much press, and its EV industry has been such a trend-setter, that it’s easy to forget our annual domestic EV market share has yet to cross 1%, a feat that at least 12 other countries did manage to achieve in 2016. Add to that policy/infrastructure inconsistency at the state level, and duplicity at the industry level – e.g., Bolt hero Mary Barra joining the call to Trump to undo fuel-efficiency standards – and as of the end of 2016, the US pretty much deserves the spot it got.
In 2017, when Tesla’s Gigafactory starts making its own battery cells and putting them in new Model 3s, expect the US to gain a few crucial points. Together with EV market share finally crossing 1% in a big way – Trump or No Trump – I won’t be surprised to see the US score for 2017 around 45 points, possibly climbing back into the Top 3 where one should expect it to be. This year, however, the US was upstaged by…

4th place: Iceland! 39-plus points.

The Nissan LEAF was the best selling all-electric vehicle in Iceland in 2016 (with 117 registrations)

In this list’s first draft, Iceland hovered near the bottom of the Top 10. Iceland managed to capture the world’s #2 market share spot, with 6.3
This numbers boost, together with acknowledgment of Iceland’s strong pro-EV culture and infrastructure (perhaps second only to Norway), nicely paired with an almost purely renewable grid, catapulted the sparsely-populated Nordic island all the way to #4.

3rd place: Sweden! 41 points.

Volkswagen Passat GTE : Loved to death in Sweden with over 3,800 registrations and a ~28% market share in the country for 2016

Claim to fame: well-rounded performance and the highest EV-production-share among automaking countries.
Somehow, Sweden remained just outside my handmade 2014 and 2015 lists (it did get an honorable mention in 2014). But when all the numbers are put together, Sweden suddenly appears everywhere. In particular, after getting “denominator” automaking numbers (i.e., the total national auto production) from the world’s automaking association, Sweden suddenly jumped way up to the top with a national EV-making share of ~8.5%. The next on the list, Germany, makes just under 2.5% EVs. Admittedly, a high national rate is easier when you only have one major automaker (Volvo), but still Volvo boasts the #1 EV share among established “traditional” Western automakers, indicating a high degree of commitment, even if most of it is still on the PHEV front.
Volvo also makes some EV buses, and Sweden’s EV sales market share (3.6%) is #5 in the world, growing ~1.5x in 2016. So Sweden scores on multiple fronts, reflecting a robust and consistent pro-EV culture, doubtlessly inspired by its neighbor

2nd place: Norway, 54 points.

New plug-in passenger car registrations in Norway (through December 2016)

Claim to fame: EV share continues to shatter records and expectations (>30% in 2016, including used imports). Leaders set commitment towards ending ICE sales next decade.
Not much to add about Norway, poster child of the EV world. Each year everyone expects they won’t be able to keep it up, and yet they do. It should be noted that Norway is another market besides the Ukraine where used-EV sales play a substantial role; they contribute ~10% to the numbers, pushing the overall number of EVs added to Norwegian roads in 2016 past 50,000. Norway’s “used import” EVs, in particular, Soul EVs from Germany, as previously documented – they are actually brand-new EVs deceptively registered in the EU to gain points for the automaker before heading to Norway. Norway itself, though, should not be faulted for this trickery, surely not from an EV supporter’s perspective.
Norway scores 39 of 50 possible points in the sales category, far ahead of second-place Iceland (25). But until it also replaces its ICE bus fleet, or starts making some lithium-ion cells in large quantities, it is unlikely to claim the #1 spot (which, using the new system, Norway might have won in 2014, but not in 2015).

1st place: China, 61 points.

The raw volume of plug-ins sold in China cannot be denied

Claim to fame: by far the largest EV volume country (both sales and production), continuing breakneck growth. Makes and deploys nearly all of the world’s electric buses.
Among large vehicles, buses and in particular urban buses offer the best opportunity for early EV adoption. Travel distances are relatively short, the form enables sticking a huge battery-pack at the bottom with few design problems, and EVs do far better with the stop-and-go bus driving mode than ICE buses, both energy-wise and maintenance-wise. Also, diesel buses play a large role in urban particulate pollution; so switching to an EV bus fleet is an environmental two-for-one win. Last but not least, most bus customers are transit agencies, who might have strict requirements but are less spoiled and finicky than the private market, and (given the right political climate) more committed to environmental policies.
Unfortunately, in the wealthy world buses are much less the essential staple than they are in the less-wealthy world, and most Western governments haven’t promoted bus electrification too much. So in the West and in particular Europe, the story has been one “pilot study” after another, in which a couple of electric buses are used for a couple of years, everyone is amazed at their success, and then…. Crickets.
Barring a few exceptions (e.g., London), no massive orders follow these “pilots”. Across all of Europe, after years of successful “pilots” in numerous cities, at the end of 2016 there were only ~1,300 electric buses deployed, and this includes ~300 “hopping trolleys” that travel mostly using overhead rails, with a modest battery allowing 15km off-rail range. Worse, the continent has yet to develop a homegrown automaker dedicated to electric buses, such as the US’s Proterra. In fact, Europe’s largest bus maker and the world’s #3, Daimler, has been almost(?) completely AWOL from the EV bus scene.
Enter China, grand debunker of the “EVs are toys for the rich” canard. In 2015 electric bus deliveries in China suddenly jumped to >100,000, and in 2016 they further increased to ~135,000, most of them BEVs with decent range, no rails required. At least 98% of the world’s electric buses are in China. A good chunk of the remaining 2%, as well, was made by Chinese companies (e.g., the massive London order mentioned above). Now these staggering numbers, although coming from reputable sources, are not completely decipherable to us. “Buses” might include vehicles from 10 seats up. Still, there’s no question that electric buses now take up a good chunk of bus sales in China (Jose estimates 20% market share for 2016), and hopefully this spills over to other countries quickly (are you listening, India?). Without its bus dominance, China would narrowly lose the #1 spot on our list to Norway

BYD plug-in electric vehicle sales in China dwarfs almost every country

Besides that, in 2016 China made about half the world’s EV battery capacity, split about evenly between cars and buses. As to China’s auto sales (>350k EVs, ~1.5% market share, 1.8x increase), the rapid increase which like elsewhere, was fueled by incentives, generated some cases of fraud, prompting the government to pause subsidies in early 2017 and send the EV market to a screeching halt.