Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger cars, trucks and buses made up almost three-quarters of total transport emissions in 2020, underlining the importance of a rapid transition away from fossil fueled-powered vehicles. 

Passenger cars are on the way to decarbonization, but they need a push to keep us on track for a 1.5 degrees C world.

The world is on the cusp of a transformation in motor vehicles, with sales of electric vehicles (EVs) skyrocketing in 2021 in the key markets of China, Europe, and parts of the United States. If this trend continues, it will have broad ramifications for the global automobile industry and global transport sector emissions. 

According to Bloomberg NEF, passenger EVs are projected to displace close to a million barrels of oil per day by 2025, with global gasoline demand projected to peak the following year. Under this scenario, the EV share of total passenger vehicle sales is projected to reach 23% by 2025, up from 9% in 2021. But more action is needed if sales are to reach 75%-95% by 2030 — the range compatible with 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) climate goals.

Progress on zero-emission trucks and buses needs a jolt, especially outside of China and Europe. 

Progress on decarbonizing truck transport is not as advanced as it is with passenger cars, but there are promising signs. Several electric heavy-duty truck models are already commercially available or in an advanced stage of development, and electric medium-duty vehicles are starting to be rolled out in many corporate fleets

Long-haul, heavy-duty trucks will be the most challenging class to decarbonize. Battery energy density for these models is currently a limiting factor, and recharge times affect corporate profitability. However, the newest trucks can travel 300 kilometers (km) on a single charge and additional battery technology improvements are estimated to enable a 40 tonne truck to drive 400 km on a single charge by 2025, suggesting there could be rapid technological change in even the heaviest vehicles.

Though hydrogen fuel cell models do not share the energy density challenges faced by battery electric models, they are still in the early stages of development and renewable hydrogen continues to be prohibitively expensive. In addition, hydrogen as a transport fuel must contend with the significant efficiency losses incurred through the production and transportation process — losses that are not a factor for battery electric models. Progress will require investments in hydrogen supply chains in addition to refueling infrastructure. 

Progress on decarbonizing buses remains extremely uneven, with very high sales in China pushing the global sales share of zero-carbon models up significantly. The United States has seen a large increase in the past year thanks to a major deal for manufacturer SEA Electric to convert 10,000 of Midwest Transit Equipment’s buses to electric over the next 5 years. In the rest of the world, zero-carbon buses have yet to make large inroads. 

Data Insights

What targets are most important to reach in the future?

Systems Change Lab has identified 5 targets to track progress. Click a chart to explore the data.

What factors may enable and prevent change?

Systems Change Lab has identified 7 factors of change that may catalyze or impede progress. Click a chart to explore the data.

Progress toward targets

Systems Change Lab has identified 5 targets target to track progress. Explore the data below.

Share of electric vehicles in light-duty vehicle sales

Global electric vehicle demand will need to continue its exponential growth in the next few years to reach 75-95% of light-duty vehicle sales by 2030 and 100% by 2035. This growth will need to accelerate by about five times compared to the last five years.

Electric vehicles (EVs) provide the mobility offered by traditional cars without the GHG emissions or air pollutants, and they are quickly replacing their fossil fuel-powered counterparts. In the last two years, electric light-duty vehicles (LDVs) have made considerable progress. The global EV share of LDV sales reached a record 8.7% in 2021, more than doubling the share from 2020, which, in turn, was 60% higher than the share of LDV sales in 2019. 

This steep increase is primarily a result of strong demand in China and the European Union, two economies that have implemented extensive policy measures in support of EV uptake. Chinese EV sales in 2021 alone were about equal to global sales in 2020, while European demand grew by 63% year-on-year. By 2021, there were around 450 EV models available — a five-fold increase since 2015, demonstrating how automakers have begun to embrace the transition to electric models. 

Global EV demand will need to continue its exponential growth in the next few years to reach 75–95% of LDV sales by 2030 and 100% by 2035. In fact, growth will need to accelerate by about five times compared to the last five years to reach the midpoint of the 2030 target range. 

Because EV deployment is likely to follow an S-curve and the technology is in the breakthrough stage of adoption, the rate of change will likely go faster in the future. An acceleration already seems to be occurring. 

Based on purely linear growth, this indicator would be “well off track,” but given the likelihood of exponential growth and our assessment of the literature, we upgrade the category to “off track.” BloombergNEF expects battery EVs to reach 36% of global LDV sales in 2030, plus an additional 5% for plug-in hybrid EVs. 

Achieving the 2030 and 2035 targets will require urgent and concerted global efforts to stimulate demand in the many countries where EV uptake remains stubbornly low. Achieving these targets would be far easier if a significant shift away from personal vehicle transport were to occur alongside the necessary switch to EVs, since fewer total vehicles would be required.

Share of electric vehicles in the light-duty vehicle fleet

Although the share of electric vehicles in the light-duty vehicle fleet is already increasing exponentially, it will need to grow even faster to reach 20-40% by 2030.

While measuring electric vehicle (EV) sales is important to understanding how EV adoption has grown, the ultimate measure of how well EVs have displaced their fossil fuel-powered counterparts is the share of EVs among cars on the road. The share of EVs among all passenger cars necessarily lags behind shares of sales, but it too is increasing, though at a slower rate. 

In 2021, EVs reached 1.3% of the global car stock — an increase of over 60% from 2020 levels. Because the share of EVs in total global sales has only recently begun to rise considerably, the increase is not yet reflected in the stock shares, but significant gains can be expected in the coming years. 

By the end of 2022, an estimated 26 million plug-in vehicles will be on the road, a staggering increase from just 1 million in 2016. Half of these are estimated to be in China alone, with the European Union (EU) and the United States also major contributors. In the two countries and the EU combined, numbers rose from 1.9 million in 2016 to 9.4 million by 2020.

The share of EVs in the light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet is already increasing exponentially, although it is still at only 1.3%. But as sales continue to soar, this indicator could begin to see large absolute increases soon. It will need to reach 20–40% of the total car fleet by 2030 and 85–100% by 2050 to be compatible with a 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) future. 

Assuming linear growth, the rate of progress in the EV light-duty fleet needs to be more than 10 times faster to reach 20–40% by 2030. However, because EV deployment is likely to follow an S-curve and the technology is in the breakthrough stage of adoption, the rate of change will likely go faster in the future compared to the past five years. This indicator is “Well Off Track,” but could increase exponentially as EV sales continue to make gains.

Share of battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles in medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle sales

The share of battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell electric vehicles in medium and heavy-duty vehicle sales needs to reach 30% by 2030 and 99% by 2050.

Medium and heavy-duty trucks contributed about 23% of global transport emissions in 2021. Global sales of zero-carbon medium and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDV) remain low, reaching roughly 0.2% of total sales in 2021. As with buses, the bulk of global demand came from China. 

Although most zero-carbon MHDVs are still on the cusp of commercial viability, strong support from governments could boost sales exponentially, as they have in other EV classes and across various countries and regions. Incentivizing research and development and subsidizing early adoption of these vehicles are ways that governments can help to fast-track their uptake. 

To limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and meet climate targets, the share of battery electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel-cell EVs in MHDV sales needs to reach 30% by 2030 and 99% by 2050. 

While progress is going in the right direction, zero-carbon MHDV sales have only just begun to accelerate outside of China. There is not enough historical data to establish how much recent zero-carbon MHDV sales would need to accelerate to reach 30% in 2030. 

Because zero-carbon MHDV deployment is likely to follow an S-curve and the technology is in the emergence stage of adoption, the rate of change will likely go faster in the future compared to the two years for which data is available. With strong support from governments and collaboration across the value chain, sales could begin to increase exponentially given increasing model availability and strong signs of growth in other EV classes and across various countries and regions.

Share of battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles in bus sales

Already increasing demand from key countries will need to grow considerably and extend to many other countries if the share of zero emission bus sales is to reach 60% by 2030 and meet the 1.5 degrees C goal.

Buses emitted about 6% of total CO2 emissions from transport in 2021. Switching to electric buses eliminates those emissions, as well as harmful tailpipe emissions such as fine particulate matter, black carbon and NO2. 

Buses are in the midst of an electrification revolution, and electric models comprised 44% of global bus sales in 2021. Global sales of zero emission buses have been dominated by demand from China over the last decade, with 97% of electric bus sales occurring there in 2019.

There are signs of an uptick in demand from key European countries, including Germany, France, the U.K., and Spain, and in India, which as of July 2022 was finalizing a tender for more than 5,500 electric buses. However, such demand will need to grow considerably and extend to many other countries if the share of zero emission bus sales is to reach 60% by 2030 and meet the 1.5 degrees C goal. This must increase to 100% by 2050.

Because of recent fluctuations in sales shares, the rate of progress made in increasing the share of BEVs and FCEVs in bus sales needs to be more than 10 times faster than it has been the last five years to reach 60% by 2030. However, China has proven that rapid progress is possible for zero-carbon buses and has single-handedly brought the 2030 target within reach. 

Other countries have the potential for that same exponential progress. Therefore, we have chosen to upgrade the indicator from “well off track,” where it would be based purely on the last five years, to “off track.”

Number of displaced internal combustion engine workers who re-gained employment

As zero-emission vehicles gain market share and ICE vehicle production declines, workers specializing in internal combustion will need to reorient their skills to electric engines.

As zero-emission vehicles gain market share and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle production declines, workers specializing in internal combustion engines will need to reorient their skills to electric vehicle components and batteries or to other areas of the economy.

A report on the future of the industry in the EU estimates retraining will be needed for around 2.4 million workers. About 1.6 million of these will remain at their current places of employment, with some changes. Around 610,000 workers will remain in the industry but in slightly different roles or companies, and 225,000 workers will need training for entirely different roles and need to be relocated to new jobs and companies.  

There is currently no publicly available data on the percent of workers who have shifted from ICE vehicle production to other jobs in the EV industry or the wider economy, nor is there a quantitative target for 2030 or 2050. As ICE vehicles still dominate global sales and fleets, it is reasonable to expect the job shift to be quite small at this point. However, a just transition requires efforts to promote training and requalification so that workers in the auto industry remain gainfully employed, albeit likely with new jobs or in new industries.

Enablers and barriers

We monitor momentum by tracking a set of 7 factors factor that can enable or prevent progress. Explore the data and learn about key actions driving progress.

Jurisdictions with internal combustion engine vehicle phase-out targets

Regulation and Incentives
Globally, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle sales should cease by 2035. There were 18 jurisdictions with ICE phase-out targets in 2021.

Setting a target year for phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is a vital policy measure for achieving road transport decarbonization. Globally, ICE vehicle sales should cease by 2035 at the latest to be 1.5 degrees C compatible, implying that in developed countries, they should stop even earlier. 

Having an ICE vehicle phase-out target date provides investment certainty to automakers, creating an incentive to speed their transition to zero-emission models. It also informs the decisions of consumers who are considering their next new car purchase, since the decline in ICE models’ resale value will compound as the phase-out date nears. 

To ensure that the transport sector is rapidly decarbonized across all countries, it is also critical to address the issue of polluting used vehicles being exported from wealthy countries to meet the demand for vehicles in less wealthy countries. This can be done through regulation that bans such exports, though few developed countries have such regulation currently, or through import bans, which are in place in many less wealthy countries.

There were 18 jurisdictions with ICE phase-out targets in 2021. A few countries’ plans stand out: Norway, long a leader in electric vehicle (EV) sales, has a world-leading target of 2025 that it may now achieve by the end of 2022. Other national goals, like Spain’s 2040 target, miss the 2035 deadline and should be brought forward. This is already happening in many countries — Canada, for example, recently moved its deadline from 2040 to 2035.

Jurisdictions with zero-emission vehicle sales mandates

Regulation and Incentives
Mandating that automakers sell a specific percentage of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) or generate a specific number of ZEV ‘credits’ is a useful method of accelerating EV uptake, and as of 2022, 46 countries and 1 region have these mandates.

Mandating that automakers sell a specific percentage of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) or generate a specific number of ZEV ‘credits’ is a useful supply-side method of accelerating electric vehicle (EV) uptake. 

The first ZEV mandate was adopted in California in 1990, well before ZEVs were readily available, with the intention of spurring innovation and ZEV manufacturing. It did not manage to spur the necessary cost and performance improvements in ZEVs during the initial phase and was subsequently weakened considerably, but it has seen greater success in recent years. 

A Chinese version of this policy was implemented in 2018 — a point in time when federal purchase subsidies were starting to be rolled back, and after a robust local ZEV manufacturing industry had already been established. In the European Union, a voluntary scheme to encourage automakers to produce ZEVs was established in 2021 to complement and strengthen its updated CO2 emissions standards. 

As of 2022, 46 countries and 1 region have ZEV sales mandates.

Jurisdictions with financial incentives for zero-emission vehicles

Regulation and Incentives
While the upfront costs of purchasing zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) remain higher than their fossil fuel counterparts, financial incentives can expedite their uptake. Many countries have used these to great effect.

While the upfront costs of purchasing zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) remain higher than their fossil fuel counterparts, financial incentives can expedite their uptake. Many countries have used these to great effect. 

Norway has had such incentives in place since the early 1990s, when the purchase/import tax was removed for electric vehicles (EVs), and deployed a cascade of further incentives over the following three decades. The result is an astonishing pace of transition, with Norway set to achieve 100% EV sales well before its world-leading 2025 target date, and as early as the end of 2022

Not all countries have the resources available to provide such generous incentives, however. In this instance, alternative approaches to reducing road transport emissions should be considered with support from wealthier countries. This could include expanding the availability of public transport and electrifying existing public transport vehicles. 

An additional approach that could help to fast-track this transition is the establishment of trade-in programs, which offer payments for trading in older, more polluting vehicle models for zero-emission alternatives.

No comprehensive global data is available for this indicator.

Number of companies selling commercial battery electric trucks

Leadership
In 2021, there were 83 companies offering at least one electric truck model in the United States. Long-haul models are yet to reach commercial maturity, primarily due to the low energy density of batteries and lack of charging infrastructure.

Trucks make up a significant share of global transport emissions, with medium- and heavy-duty trucks making up about a quarter of transport emissions in 2019. Emissions from these vehicles have been rising 2.5% per year on average since 2000. It is a critical sector to decarbonize, though progress to date has been slow. 

Publicly available global data does not currently exist on the number of companies offering battery electric trucks because the market is still nascent, but there is some regional data. In 2021, there were 83 companies offering at least one electric truck model in the United States. The number of models was highest in Class 3 pickup trucks and box trucks (14), heavy-duty single-trailer trucks (13), and heavy tractor trucks (12).

Battery electric models for trucks have become commercially available for some applications, but long-haul models are yet to reach commercial maturity. This is primarily due to the low energy density of batteries, which currently makes their application to long-distance trips challenging

There is also currently little to no charging infrastructure to support the level needed for long-haul, heavy-duty trucks. However, electric last-mile or short-haul heavy-duty trucks are already cost competitive with their diesel counterparts in several countries, with numerous models coming to market in recent years. 

Shifting long-haul freight to rail is a way to reduce emissions in the long term, but also has short-term benefits while battery electric vehicle (BEV) models remain under development.

Number of companies offering commercial heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles

Leadership
Heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have yet to see commercial penetration, with battery electric models so far dominating the market for short-haul vehicles and city buses.

Heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have yet to see commercial penetration, with battery electric models so far dominating the market for short-haul vehicles and city buses. They could become useful for long-haul trips where the energy density of batteries is currently challenging. It is not clear, however, that this will remain so. Recent developments in battery technology indicate that batteries may be more suitable for longer distances than was thought even a few years ago. 

There is currently no publicly available global data on the number of companies offering commercial heavy-duty FCEVs. This appears to be because this technology is still in the demonstration stage and has not yet reached the market. China appears to be making efforts to convert some heavy-duty vehicles to hydrogen fuel cells, including at ports and for fleets used by heavy industry.

Public charging stations

Innovation
The number of public charging stations has increased substantially over the past decade. In total, there were over 560,000 fast, and nearly 1.2 million slow, publicly available charging points in the world in 2021.

A key precondition for the widespread deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) is a large and reliable charging infrastructure network. Although most EV charging takes place at home, publicly available charging infrastructure is necessary for longer-distance travel. 

The total number of public charging stations has increased substantially over the past decade. It doubled in only two years, from 895,000 in 2019 to 1,760,000 in 2021

Almost two-thirds of all installed chargers are found in China. The United States and South Korea make up 6% each, followed by Norway with almost 5% and France and Germany with around 3% each. In the majority of countries, however, the number of public charging stations remains very limited. 

Particularly for longer distances, EV drivers want fast chargers that can deliver full power in about 30 minutes. The share of fast chargers has been increasing more rapidly than that of regular chargers and reached about one-third of all chargers in 2021, up from just 15% in 2015. 

In total, there were over 560,000 fast, and nearly 1.2 million slow, publicly available charging points in the world in 2021, making up the 1,760,000 total.

Number of jobs in electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains

Leadership
As of 2019, there were around 1.3 million jobs working on electric vehicles around the world — 10% of total auto sector employment — including 460,000 jobs in manufacturing and 850,000 jobs in EV supply chains.

Workers from a variety of educational and employment backgrounds are employed in the electric vehicle industry — scientists who conduct research in electric drive technology, manufacturing workers who build vehicles, and automotive maintenance technicians who repair vehicles. Most of these occupations require specialized training or work experience in electric vehicle manufacturing and maintenance. 
 
Manufacturing electric vehicles requires less labor and fewer components than combustion engine vehicles, and therefore fewer direct jobs. However, studies in the United States and Europe have shown that growth in electricity infrastructure for EVs and clean fuel supply for hydrogen vehicles is likely to dwarf job losses in manufacturing jobs. 
 
All new employment opportunities should provide people with decent work, meaning that these jobs should offer fair compensation, safe working conditions, equal opportunities and social protections. These jobs must be free of forced and child labor and provide employees the right to organize or discuss work-related issues. 
 
As of 2019, there were around 1.3 million jobs working on electric vehicles around the world (10% of total auto sector employment), including 460,000 jobs in manufacturing and 850,000 jobs in EV supply chains.