Passenger electric vehicle sales are set to jump more than 80% in 2021 to 5.6 million units, up from 3.1 million in 2020 (and 2.1 million in 2019), according to the Zero-Emission Vehicles Factbook, a special report published today by BloombergNEF (BNEF), at the request of the UK COP26 Presidency and in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Factbook documents the progress that has been made towards global net-zero emissions in the road transport sector. In the first half of 2021, sales of passenger electric vehicles (including battery electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles) were 140% higher than the same period in 2019, reaching 7% of global passenger vehicle sales. This compares with just 2.6% in 2019, the year of the last UN Climate Change Conference.

The total global fleet of passenger electric and fuel cell vehicles now totals nearly 13 million, of which 8.5 million are true zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), either battery-electric or fuel-cell (fuel-cell vehicles account for a fraction of that total). The ZEV figure is up from 4.6 million at the time of COP25.

At the same time, by 1H 2021, the global fleet of zero-emission buses has increased by 22% since 2019, and BNEF expects 18% of all municipal buses on the road to be zero-emission at the end of 2021.

A review of industry outlooks finds that zero-emission vehicle forecasts have been raised across the board. BNEF has raised its own forecast for the global ZEV fleet in 2040 from 495 million vehicles in its 2019 forecast to 677 million in its 2021 Electric Vehicle Outlook.

Source: BNEF Factbook

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has raised its 2030 battery electric vehicle fleet forecast by 7% since 2019, while the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has raised its 2040 estimate for the global electric and fuel cell vehicle fleet by 11%.

Underpinning these stronger forecasts are a range of factors, including improving battery technology and costs, faster roll-outs of charging infrastructure, a wider range of vehicle models on offer to customers, and longer range and faster charging speeds available on the newest vehicles. Each of these factors is discussed in detail in the report.

Industry and government commitments. The report is launched in time for Transport Day of COP26, where a coalition of government and global car industry leaders working towards 100% zero-emission new car, van and HGV sales by 2040, will come together.

In an Annex to the report, BNEF finds that the declaration, in combination with existing commitments, means that automakers committed to reaching 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035 at the latest now account for 32% of the global auto market. The Annex finds that similar national targets account for 20% of passenger vehicle sales.

US state-level targets to phase out sales of internal combustion engines now cover a quarter of auto sales in the country (which currently does not have a national phase-out target). Additionally, the combined national targets, ICE phase-out targets and interim ZEV sales targets of China, India, and the US, reach nearly 41% of the global passenger vehicle market. This is up from just 8% in 2019.

Sales of internal combustion engine vehicles need to stop around 2035 to get global road transport to net zero by 2050. This report highlights the remarkable progress that has been made towards this goal in the last two years, powered by increasing ambitions of leading governments and vehicle manufacturers. However, there is still a large gap to fill if we are to meet the 2035 deadline globally.—Aleksandra O’Donovan, electric vehicle analyst at BloombergNEF and lead author of the report

Ambitious targets are increasingly being matched by policies and regulations stimulating market growth for zero-emission vehicles. The European Union’s proposed CO2 emissions standards imply that electric vehicles should account for 25%-32% of sales in the bloc by 2025, and 60%-83% by 2030. Proposed fuel economy rules in the US imply a 24% market share for electric vehicle by 2026, on the way to a 50% share by 2030 under President Biden’s executive order. China targets 20% new energy vehicles by 2025, increasing to 40% by 2030.