April 8, 2021

Staying Current Part I - A Series on Electric Vehicles

NAC Blog
NAC Blog

Staying Current Part I - A Series on Electric Vehicles

Over the last few years, the buzz surrounding electric vehicles has grown from a din to a roar: not a week goes by without auto industry headlines touting the latest manufacturer announcement or investment, and analysts continuously fine-tune their forecasts for our collective electrified future. Yet electric vehicles are still the exception on the road rather than the rule. How quickly their numbers will grow is still to be determined—although experts and analysts have their insights—but the impact of EV proliferation on the wider auto industry is at least as important as the seeming eventuality of their domination.

In this series, we explore the current EV landscape, predictions for and challenges facing its future, and how electrification will impact the larger automotive industry.

The Global EV Landscape and Outlook

Globally, the number of EVs sold in 2020, though still modest compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, increased by 39%compared to 2019; the total topped 3 million vehicles. By contrast, global ICE vehicle sales in 2020 were down roughly 14% largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Europe, EVs represented 5% of new vehicle sales last year; in the US, their market share was roughly half that.[1]The higher rates of EV sales abroad can be attributed to more stringent regulatory requirements for emissions and fuel efficiency in Europe and China[2]as well as closer vehicle cost parity with ICE models created by more generous government incentives for consumers in those countries.[3]As regulatory requirements in these nations favor EVs, it remains to be seen whether automakers will simply tailor their offerings to the regulatory environment—in other words, offer more EVs/alternative fuel vehicles in those stricter countries but continue to rely on ICE vehicles in the US. In terms of infrastructure China and Europe are also leading the pack, with China notably focusing on fast-charging stations[4].The EU has nearly 200,000 operational chargers—more than twice as many as the US; even so, this is much less than the 3 million chargers that experts say will be necessary when EVs truly dominate European roads[5]. Analysts expect that nearly half of all vehicles on the road globally will be EVs within the next 10[6]or 20 years.[7]

The EV Landscape in the US

According to SP Global, US EV sales in 2020 fell to 296,000units from 2019’s 331,000 total.[8]Today there are still relatively few truly electric vehicles (i.e., not plug-in hybrids, fuel cells, etc.) available in the US, but most manufacturers have at least one model on offer. However, many OEMs have full slates of EVs they plan to release in the coming years, with future products totaling in the dozens. GM and Jaguar plan to go fully electric, with the former setting a date for the transition: 2035. There are also the disruptors—Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, etc.—to consider. (It bears mentioning that only one of these brands—Tesla—has actually produced and delivered a consumer vehicle to date.) There are also a few “in memoriam” notables: the Mitsubishi iMiev, Smart EQ, and Volkswagen e-Golf are no longer sold in the US but made their mark on the landscape just the same.

The number of models on the market—and coming soon to a dealer near you—begs the question: with so many EVs in development, why is consumer adoption so far behind the factory pipeline? As with many such questions, there are multiple answers. Roadblocks to EV proliferation in the US include cost—both to consumers and for manufacturers—as well as the comparative lack of EV-friendly infrastructure[9]and inconsistent policymaking[10].

Next time, we will explore how these challenges have held back adoption of EVs in the US and what the prospects are for resolving them.


[1] Canalys,“Electric vehicle outlook: 2021 and beyond.”

[2] Atlantic Council, “Automaker Electric Vehicle Plans ‘Progressing At A Rapid Pace,’ Despite Pandemic, Economic Downturn.”

[3] Finance& Commerce, “The Age of Electric Vehicles is Ahead of Schedule.”

[4]IEA 2019 Global Outlook

[5] The Economic Times (India), “The Age of Electric Vehicles May Arrive Much Before Than Expected (ibid.).”

[6] Canalys

[7] BNEF, “EVO Report 2020.”

[8] SPGlobal, “US EV Sales tumble in 2020, but EV load increases with more charging stations.”

[9] Marketplace.org, “The Number of Electric Car Charging Stations is Rising, But Does That Mean Wider Adoption of Electric Cars Will Follow?”

[10] Atlantic Council

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