Thanks to Assaf Oron for inviting me to cooperate on this article.
This is my third year publishing a “Top EV Countries” list. The 2015 list generated some
excellent comments, above all “What are the criteria?” So this year, I tried to make these
more objective, in the sense of using an actual score calculated from publicly available
numbers. Of course a strong element of judgment remains regarding how to weight and scale
the score. For that, I solicited some input from Insideevs’ team of contributors, as well as from
Jose Pontes, editor of the EV sales blog, without which this list would have been impossible
to put together. Their input has greatly influenced score composition, however the
responsibility for the final scores and their calculation is solely mine.
I was surprised by some of the new names near the top; but all have earned their spots there.
Also, while in 2014 I felt there are only 6 countries that merit getting on the list, and in 2015 7
countries – for 2016, I think there are certainly at least 10 countries that already play a
substantial positive role in the electrification of global ground transport. A couple of important
EV countries have even been left out; see if you can spot them!
This preamble being long enough, I don’t want to distract with score-composition details here;
they appear near the end. But the score is out of 100, and “absolute” rather than relative. For
example, a score of 80-90 would be won by a country nearing 50% EV market share with
rapid year-over- year increase, strong EV bus sales, solid infrastructure/policy support, and
either having an auto industry well on the transition to EV-making, or at least carrying part of
its EV-demand weight in terms of battery production (the maximum possible score with no
auto industry and no EV battery production, is 80 points). The score does not include 2-
Right now, no country is anywhere close to 80 points. In fact, only 2 countries cross 50 points.
Keep in mind that only 39 countries, two-thirds of them in Europe, participate in the list. The
rest lack numbers, and many of them probably see no EV action at all. I tried to add a couple
of Asian countries via direct inquiries with no success, making me admire the EV sales blog
Last note: please don’t quibble too much about the ordering of the countries in positions 4-10,
as they are separated by no more than ~3 points top to bottom. Ok, without further ado!
10 th place: Netherlands, 36 points. Claim to fame: high but uneven market share in a PHEV-
Netherlands boasts the world’s #3 EV market share, but it’s down from #2 and last year’s 6%
share represents a precipitous drop from 2015 when it neared 10%. Moreover, >80% of sales
are PHEVs (recipe secret: I do penalize 1 point for the PHEV:BEV ratio being worse than 2:1,
and vice versa). Both are the result of rather funky and inconsistent EV policies. The
Netherlands does have some e-bus activity; according to Zeeus, its electric bus fleet is
among the largest 5 in the continent, which probably means 100-odd buses.
9 th Place: France, 37-minus points. Claim to fame: EVs’ stable “Oak Tree” country continues
to forge ahead, but not fast enough to stay in the Top 5.
In 2016, France’s EV market share, still BEV-dominated, inched up to 1.7%. Curiously,
France is the last country where “Pokemon EV” Mitsubishi I-Miev is still popular, selling in the
thousands in 2016 under 3 different nameplates, 2 of them French (but shipped ready-made
from Japan; thanks Jose!). I gave France a bonus point for Renault’s launching the 41-kWh
Zoe and 33-kWh Kangoo, but it happened too late in the year to cause a sales surge. Maybe
7 th Place (two-way tie): Japan and Korea, 37-plus points. Claim to fame: leading EV-
making country continues to stagnate, meets rising EV-making power with a bitter historical
score to settle. Both make many GWh’s of EV batteries.
Japan still makes the world’s best selling EV for 2016 (Leaf). However, its domestic EV share
continues to decrease, while Korea’s jumped by ~2.5x last year, mostly thanks to the
introduction of the Hyundai Ioniq late in the year. Meanwhile Korea is thinking outside the box
about electric buses; in mid-2016 a bus line in Jeju Island switched to electric buses with
swappable batteries, and the country also leads the development of buses that get wirelessly
charged as they go. Both approaches can help reduce the size of the battery that needs to sit
inside the bus itself.
Both countries ended 2016 around a rather underwhelming 0.4% market share. The reason
they are in the Top 10 at all, is that they are two-thirds of the world’s 3-country oligopoly over
EV lithium-ion battery production. Japan and Korea supply practically all of the batteries
appearing in Western-made EVs. They demonstrate that high-income countries can be
leading battery makers: no excuse for farming it out of sight to poorly-regulated plants in poor
But if the Prius Prime doesn’t take off, or the Gen 2 Leaf gets delayed again or underwhelms
the audience, Japan might drop out of the top 10 this year. What a fall for a country that was
arguably the world’s #1 in 2011.
6 th Place: The United States, 38 points. Claim to fame: Home of the Tesla, Volt and Bolt
renews its growth, but is bumped down the list by a couple of upstarts.
The USA’s EV market gets so much press, and its EV industry has been such a trend-setter,
that it’s easy to forget our annual domestic EV market share has yet to cross 1%, a feat that
at least 12 other countries did manage to achieve in 2016. Add to that policy/infrastructure
inconsistency at the state level, and duplicity at the industry level – e.g., Bolt hero Mary Barra
joining the call to Trump to undo fuel-efficiency standards – and as of the end of 2016, the US
pretty much deserves the spot it got.
Next year, if and when Tesla’s Gigafactory starts making its own battery cells (sorry
Tesla/Volt fans, no credit for putting together battery packs from cells made elsewhere),
expect the US to gain a few crucial points. Together with EV market share finally crossing 1%
in a big way – Trump or No Trump - I won’t be surprised to see the US score for 2017 around
45 points, possibly climbing back into the Top 3 where one should expect it to be. This year,
however, the US was upstaged by…
5 th place: The Ukraine! 39-minus points. Claim to fame: local groups make up for economic
challenges by importing thousands of used EVs; 4% market share with sales jumping ~5x
I can already see the comments asking: “USED sales?? WTH?!” Let me pre-empt them by
asking back, what would you do living in a country with $4,000 per-capita GDP, which means
that even at ~$150/kWh, new EVs are still priced out of your league? And no domestic auto
Well, some Ukrainians got together, established a conveyor belt of used EVs (half of them
Leafs) coming in from the West, lobbied for government support, and in 2016 things really
flourished with >2.5k sales, nearly all >2-year- old used, jumping five-fold over 2015 and
landing the global #4 spot for market share. The motivation for this “Ukrainian EV miracle” is
pretty clear: with its domineering enemy Russia being an oil power, the desire to punch Big
Oil in the face (which I share, heartily) takes on a personal and immediate form in the
Still not convinced about used sales? Besides doing it for its own domestic needs, the
Ukraine is also setting a global example for poor non-industrial countries to get into EVs, and
a venue for leading EV volume markets to get some demand and resale value for short-
range, degraded used BEVs. I also double-checked the Ukraine story with Jose, who has
direct personal connections there, and he says it is both genuine and impressive. If the
Ukrainians put together a second triple-digit increase year, they might be able to hang onto
the top 5. But we’re not done with Cinderellas tonight...
4 th place: Iceland! 39-plus points.
In this list’s first draft, Iceland hovered near the bottom of the Top 10. Then, prompted by
Jose, I double-checked updated 2016 numbers from EAFO.eu (an official EU alt-energy-
vehicle tracking site, apparently Jose plays a big role there too), and learned that quietly away
from the limelight, Iceland managed to capture the world’s #2 market share spot, with 6.3%!
(The initial EV sales blog report pegged it at <5%.) This numbers boost, together with
acknowledgment of Iceland’s strong pro-EV culture and infrastructure (perhaps second only
to Norway), nicely paired with an almost purely renewable grid, catapulted the sparsely-
populated Nordic island all the way to #4. And we’re staying Norse for a wee bit more, with...
3 rd place: Sweden! 41 points. Claim to fame: well-rounded performance and the highest EV-
production-share among automaking countries.
Somehow, Sweden remained just outside my handmade 2014 and 2015 lists (it did get an
honorable mention in 2014). But when all the numbers are put together, Sweden suddenly
appears everywhere. In particular, after getting “denominator” automaking numbers (i.e., the
total national auto production) from the world’s automaking association, Sweden suddenly
jumped way up to the top with a national EV-making share of ~8.5%. The next on the list,
Germany, makes just under 2.5% EVs. Admittedly, a high national rate is easier when you
only have one major automaker (Volvo), but still Volvo boasts the #1 EV share among
established “traditional” Western automakers, indicating a high degree of commitment, even if
most of it is still on the PHEV front.
Volvo also makes some EV buses, and Sweden’s EV sales market share (3.6%) is #5 in the
world, growing ~1.5x in 2016. So Sweden scores on multiple fronts, reflecting a robust and
consistent pro-EV culture, doubtlessly inspired by its neighbor…
2nd place: Norway, 54 points. Claim to fame: EV share continues to shatter records and
expectations (>30% in 2016, including used imports). Leaders set commitment towards
ending ICE sales next decade.
Not much to add about Norway, poster child of the EV world. Each year everyone expects
they won’t be able to keep it up, and yet they do. It should be noted that Norway is another
market besides the Ukraine where used-EV sales play a substantial role; they contribute
~10% to the numbers, pushing the overall number of EVs added to Norwegian roads in 2016
past 50,000. Norway’s “used import” EVs are much newer than the Ukrainian version, and in
many cases – in particular, Soul EVs from Germany, as previously documented – they are
actually brand-new EVs deceptively registered in the EU to gain points for the automaker
before heading to Norway. Norway itself, though, should not be faulted for this trickery, surely
not from an EV supporter’s perspective.
Norway scores 39 of 50 possible points in the sales category, far ahead of second-place
Iceland (25). But until it also replaces its ICE bus fleet, or starts making some lithium-ion cells
in large quantities, it is unlikely to claim the #1 spot (which, using the new system, Norway
might have won in 2014, but not in 2015).
1 st place: China, 61 points. Claim to fame: by far the largest EV volume country (both sales
and production), continuing breakneck growth. Makes and deploys nearly all of the world’s
Among large vehicles, buses and in particular urban buses offer the best opportunity for early
EV adoption. Travel distances are relatively short, the form enables sticking a huge battery-
pack at the bottom with few design problems, and EVs do far better with the stop-and- go bus
driving mode than ICE buses, both energy-wise and maintenance-wise. Also, diesel buses
play a large role in urban particulate pollution; so switching to an EV bus fleet is an
environmental two-for- one win. Last but not least, most bus customers are transit agencies,
who might have strict requirements but are less spoiled and finicky than the private market,
and (given the right political climate) more committed to environmental policies.
Unfortunately, in the wealthy world buses are much less the essential staple than they are in
the less-wealthy world, and most Western governments haven’t promoted bus electrification
too much. So in the West and in particular Europe, the story has been one “pilot study” after
another, in which a couple of electric buses are used for a couple of years, everyone is
amazed at their success, and then…. Crickets. Barring a few exceptions (e.g., London), no
massive orders follow these “pilots”. Across all of Europe, after years of successful “pilots” in
numerous cities, at the end of 2016 there were only ~1300 electric buses deployed, and this
includes ~300 “hopping trolleys” that travel mostly using overhead rails, with a modest battery
allowing 15km off-rail range. Worse, the continent has yet to develop a homegrown
automaker dedicated to electric buses, such as the US’s Proterra. In fact, Europe’s largest
bus maker and the world’s #3, Daimler, has been almost(?) completely AWOL from the EV
Enter China, grand debunker of the “EVs are toys for the rich” canard. In 2015 electric bus
deliveries in China suddenly jumped to >100,000, and in 2016 they further increased to
~135,000, most of them BEVs with decent range, no rails required. At least 98% of the
world’s electric buses are in China. A good chunk of the remaining 2%, as well, was made by
Chinese companies (e.g., the massive London order mentioned above). Now these
staggering numbers, although coming from reputable sources, are not completely
decipherable to us. “Buses” might include vehicles from 10 seats up. Still, there’s no question
that electric buses now take up a good chunk of bus sales in China (Jose estimates 20%
market share for 2016), and hopefully this spills over to other countries quickly (are you
listening, India?). Without its bus dominance, China would narrowly lose the #1 spot on our
list to Norway.
Besides that, in 2016 China made about half the world’s EV battery capacity, split about
evenly between cars and buses. I penalized its battery industry one point for lack of
transparency: investigative reports found out that the supply chain of some Chinese lithium-
ion battery companies includes slavery cobalt from Congo (Korean companies might also be
implicated, but to a lesser extent). As to China’s auto sales (>350k EVs, ~1.5% market share,
1.8x increase), the rapid increase which like elsewhere, was fueled by incentives, generated
some cases of fraud, prompting the government to pause subsidies in early 2017 and send
the EV market to a screeching halt. I think the pause has now been mostly released for
companies found “clean”.
I wasn’t expecting too many surprises in 2016’s list, but ended up with an entire slew of
If you’re curious about the score composition, 50% of it is sales (mostly market share, but
volume and year-over- year change also mattered, and there was that BEV:PHEV
bonus/penalty), 30% production (volume, share of country’s auto industry, and batteries;
countries sans an auto industry got a 50% waiver for the former two, but not for batteries),
15% for buses and 5% for policy/infrastructure (that bit was the most arbitrary, so I ended up
keeping it small). Just to demonstrate how strong the 2016 list is: hovering ~2.5 points below
the Top 10 are the UK and Austria, two pretty good EV countries, and below them Germany,
the world’s #3 EV producer by volume and #2 by percentage.
You might also be curious about the lowest scores: spots #38 and #39 are occupied by
Turkey and Slovakia, with 11 and 8 points, respectively. Both have ridiculously low market
share, and are penalized for having sizable auto industries with no documented EV activity (to
be fair, Turkey did produce the Renault Fluence ZE a few years back, but that seems to have
gone away). The lowest-ranking wealthy country is Italy at #30, with 19.5 points. But China
and Ukraine are living proof, in two completely different ways, that this doesn’t have to be a
wealthy-world game anymore. India, are you listening again?
I hope to see more countries cross 50 points, surely by 2018 and perhaps even next year. My
guess is that the US or any European country that sets up large battery factories or deploys
gobs of electric buses, will be the first to do so, although Korea could be a “dark horse”
candidate as well – while the leaders forge ahead towards 70 points and beyond.
Article also published on Inside EV's