Tracking the Global Push to Plug-In

In 2009, transportation accounted for approximately one-fifth of global primary energy use, and one quarter of all energy-related CO2 emissions, nearly half of those originating from passenger vehicles.

There is a global push for electric vehicles (EVs) because they offer the most promising technology to reduce our reliance on oil, drastically cut emissions, and—with the right planning and infrastructure—offer citizens the same or improved transportation services.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama set a goal of getting Americans to buy 1 million plug-in vehicles annually by 2015, and reinforced this goal during his most recent State of the Union address. The U.S. is not the only country that has set ambitious targets.

Cumulative national targets for EV and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales announced by member governments of the Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI)—a multi-government initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial—add up to almost 6 million by 2020, with assumed growth rates of 20 percent per year. If achieved, this would almost reach 6 percent of total vehicle sales by 2020 and 20 million EVs on the road that year in countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Germany, France, Spain and Japan.

Before reaching this global goal, EVs must continue scale-up. Although the current market is small, the outlook is encouraging. About 40,000 EVs/PHEVs were sold worldwide in 2011, the most of any year in history

Promising, yes. But we still have a long way to go. Even in leading international cities, EVs only account for .3 percent (in Amsterdam) and .25 percent (in Portland) of currently registered vehicles. In Los Angeles, a city considered “the car capital of the world” with the most ambitious EV target (80,000 on the road by 2015), EVs only account for .08 percent of currently registered vehicles.

The importance of the introduction and scale-up of electric vehicles, and the unique role that urban areas play in making an electric future possible for its citizens, is clear in the EV City Casebook, available for download tomorrow at The casebook is a product of four coordinated international initiatives to provide a global perspective on the electric vehicle movement. This international knowledge-sharing network consists of the EVI, Project Get Ready an RMI initiative, and the International Energy Agency’s Implementing Agreement on Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (IA-HEV).

These case studies, which look at 16 cities and regions across nine countries and three continents that have managed to capture 30 percent of the global EV market, are living examples of how leading areas——whether motivated by job creation, consumer demand, improved mobility, or benefits to air quality and the environment—can shape local policies, incentive programs, and customer behaviors that accelerate EV adoption.

Did your city make the cut? Find out tomorrow at international knowledge-sharing network consists of the EVI, Download the casebook and tell us what innovative city strategy caught your attention.