Electric vehicle capitals: Accelerating electric mobility in a year of disruption

Electrification Zero-emission vehicles

Despite the 15% drop in vehicle sales worldwide in 2020 due to the global pandemic, the electric vehicle (EV) market continued to grow, with a 42% increase in EV sales compared to 2019. This growth has been spurred by strong government policies, among which green economic recovery packages and strong vehicle emission standards played a major role, particularly in Europe. Metropolitan areas and cities play a key role as well in the electric mobility transition. The figure below displays the share of 2020 global electric vehicle registrations in different markets with a specific focus on the 25 electric vehicle capitals.

This briefing identifies the top 25 leading EV markets by 2020 new registrations, termed EV capitals, and provides data on electric passenger vehicle registrations, charging infrastructure and policies in place in these metropolitan areas. While each EV capital has its own strategy to increase EV uptake, this paper identifies common practices among these leading markets, giving insights about successful practices and key policies.

This briefing leads to the following conclusions:

European cities led in EV uptake in 2020. While in previous years the EV capitals usually counted 6 European cities, this number increased to 8 in 2020 as Europe saw a 143% increase in EV sales compared to 2019. This compared to 8% for China and South Korea, 4% for the United States and 1% for the rest of the world. While Chinese EV capitals still represent the largest EV markets in absolute EV registrations, European EV capitals are well ahead in EV share of registrations, ranging from 10.6% in Munich to 80% in Bergen. This compares to EV registrations ranging from 2.5% in New York to 29% in Liuzhou for non-European EV capitals. However, while only 54% of European EV capitals’ electric registrations are BEVs this share rises to a 77% average for the 17 other EV capitals.

EV capitals are implementing policies to encourage a robust, comprehensive charging infrastructure network. While EV capitals started by building a comprehensive charging infrastructure network providing even coverage in the entire metropolitan area, most are now at the point where a different strategy makes sense. A demand-driven strategy in which current and potential EV buyers can request or suggest a charging station location could complement a planning-oriented approach to deliver more efficient use of the infrastructure and allow the private sector to step in. Besides, EV capitals are engaging with all stakeholders and adopting charger’s deployment goals to make sure charging infrastructure availability is not limiting electric vehicle adoption and is deployed efficiently and equitably. In addition to these strategies, it is noteworthy that 24 of the EV capitals have EV-ready building codes in place.

EV capitals are updating their comprehensive policy packages to adapt to market developments. Cities have many tools at their disposal to spur electric vehicle uptake quickly and efficiently. Every EV capital has at least 8 promotion actions in place and up to 17 for Amsterdam and London, showing that a wide range of policies and actions is key to efficiently spur EV uptake. As the EV market develops, some policies that were key in the early stages are being phased out, some policies are being introduced or expanded, and some would be continued but re-evaluated as the market grows. Benefits such as priority road access can slowly be rolled back, and financial subsidies can be refined to target specific groups of customers such as low-income households. Charging infrastructure deployment and consumer awareness strategies can be re-assessed to meet specific needs and to include equity aspects. Zero-emission zones (ZEZs) can be introduced or expanded in area and scope to move toward full electrification, and full electrification targets can be extended to more vehicle groups and brought forward.

EV capitals are increasingly planning for and implementing zero-emission zones (ZEZs). As other policies are phased out, ZEZs appear to be a promising opportunity for cities to move toward 100% ZEVs and are increasingly being announced for passenger and freight vehicles in EV capitals. ZEZs are areas of the city where only zero emission vehicles, such as battery electric vehicles, are granted unrestricted access. These zones can affect different category of vehicles, private vehicles, delivery fleets and taxis, and the area usually expands over time starting from the city center and growing to the entire metropolitan region. Zero emission mobility also concerns public fleets, like buses, which many cities have pledged to fully electrify at different time horizons, usually up to 2030.