White paper

Electric vehicle capitals of the world: Demonstrating the path to electric drive

This assessment identifies and analyzes major cities around the world that have the highest high electric vehicle uptake by new vehicle share and sales in 2015. The analysis also summarizes electric vehicle policy, charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness campaigns that are in place in each market to help develop the electric vehicle market. The analysis is conducted at the metropolitan area level to incorporate surrounding travel activity patterns outside the central urban area. The paper also includes a comparison of vehicle life-cycle emissions data to assess new vehicles carbon emission impact in the leading electric vehicle markets.

Based on this analysis, the top markets by electric vehicle share of new passenger vehicles are Oslo (27%), Utrecht (15%), Shanghai (11%), Shenzhen (10%), Amsterdam (10%), and San Jose (9.4%). In terms of total volume, the highest annual sales markets are Shanghai, Los Angeles, and Beijing, which recorded between 18,000 and 42,000 new electric vehicle registrations in 2015. Overall, the 14 electric vehicle capitals presented in this study had from two to above 30 times the global electric vehicle sales rate.

We highlight the following three findings:

Nearly a third of global electric vehicle sales are in just 14 electric vehicle capitals. Fourteen metropolitan areas, representing only about 1.5% of the global population, accounted for 32% of new electric vehicles in 2015. These hot spots for electric vehicle growth are demonstrating the first major steps toward the mainstream deployment and integration of new electric vehicle technologies.

Electric vehicle capital cities use a comprehensive suite of electric vehicle promotion actions to spur the market. High electric vehicle uptake markets address the prevailing electric vehicle consumer barriers of cost with incentives, convenience with extensive charging infrastructure, and consumer awareness with promotional campaigns. At the same time, these markets’ policy actions are tailored to unique local conditions, for example, to their geography, city layout, incentives, or vehicle licensing policies.

Electric vehicles deliver a low-carbon transport option. Cities that are accelerating the transition to electric drive are achieving significant carbon emission reductions in their transportation sector. Even after incorporating upstream emissions, electric vehicles provide carbon emission reduction benefits of 30% to more than 98% compared to conventional vehicles across the China, Europe, and U.S. markets. Further improvements are expected as the electric grids continue to decarbonize.

bar chart, new EV registrations and share of new vehicles, selected cities, 2015