Top 10 countries selling electric cars

Sales of electric cars are increasing across the world, with the figure passing 1.2 million for the first time in 2018. And more than 1.6 million electric vehicles are expected to be sold worldwide by the end of the year, according to the Frost & Sullivan Global Electric Vehicle Market Outlook for 2018. There are now more models for sale than ever before, offering greater choice for drivers, as the benefits of zero emission electric vehicles become more apparent. A few countries are leading this electric vehicle revolution, although more are now quickly playing catch up.

Top 10 countries for electric vehicle sales in 2017

New electric car sales (thousands)
Market share of electric cars (%)
China 579.00 2.2
USA 198.35 1.2
Norway 62.26 39.2
Germany 54.56 1.6
Japan 54.10 1.0
UK 47.25 1.7
France 34.78 1.7
Sweden 20.35 6.3
Canada 16.68 1.1
Netherlands 11.07 2.7

Research from IEA


In terms of overall brand new electric car sales, Norway is third in the world behind the USA and China. Due to its small population though, Norway is far and away the leader when it comes to electric cars having the greatest market share. In 2017 pure electric and hybrid cars accounted for 52% of all new car sales in the country, covering almost 50,000 new cars, with fully electric cars making up 20.9% of new sales.

One of the main reasons for electric cars making up such a large portion of Norway’s market is that the government has set a challenging target for all new cars sold to be zero emissions by 2025. This has been spurred on by large tax breaks and incentives such as free parking, charging and toll exemption in some cities for electric car drivers.

China and the USA

2017 was the year that electric cars really started to take off and, in terms of volume, nowhere was that more evident than in China. Records were broken as over 700,000 plug-in and electric vehicles were sold here last year. Despite being only 2.3% of all China’s new car sales, they accounted for around half of all electric and plug-in cars sold worldwide.

The USA followed closely behind, with just under 200,000 sold last year. This was roughly a 25% increase on 2016 and is more impressive given that overall new car sales were down for the first time since 2009. However, considering there were 17 million new vehicles sold in the USA in total, there’s still a long way to go. Unsurprisingly EV sales in California were much higher than in any other state, with the Tesla Model S claiming the crown as the best-selling EV in the USA.

The UK

A record number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars were sold in the UK throughout 2017 too, reaching over 45,000. This represented about 1.8% of all new car sales and of this there were 13,000 new fully-electric cars registered, increasing by around a third.

The UK government has said that it wants every new car and van to be effectively zero emission by 2040.

As well as greater awareness and falling diesel sales, more choice of electric vehicles contributed to this growth; one of the most popular all-electric cars in the new market is the Nissan Leaf. If this rise continues then hybrid and electric car sales are expected to exceed 60,000 in 2018.

Fast-growing countries

While the USA, China and Europe account for around 90% of all electric car sales in the world, Japan and South Korea are also major players. Iceland is the only other country where electric vehicles have a double-digit market share (13% in 2017), after Norway.

The issue is that much like Norway, it only has a small population, so this figure equates to just 3,000 electric vehicles. However, that’s still double the EV adoption of Israel in 2017 – just 1,600 units – which looks even worse considering its population is 20 times that of Iceland.

Looking at percentage growth can also be misleading, as Bulgaria’s battery electric vehicle (BEV) market grew by 1,260% from 2016 to 2017. Look closer though and the country only sold 5 BEV models in 2016, compared to 68 last year, so it’s hardly a boom.

If the expected growth continues, more incentives for electric car ownership are introduced and the available models increase, then expect the electric car market to reach new heights in the coming years.

Image courtesy of iStock.


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