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The general term “electric vehicle” or “electric drive” takes in several specific vehicle types: all-electric (sometimes called battery-electric), plug-in hybrid electric, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Electric vehicles are superior to conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles in at least three ways. First, they are several times more efficient in converting energy into vehicle movement. Second, they are much more compatible with renewable energy sources. Third, at least potentially they produce no emissions at the vehicle, and much lower lifecycle (“well to wheel”) emissions.
These are the cars of the future, and they are just beginning to get traction in the market today. In 2010 total sales numbered in the hundreds; now there are dozens of models available, and new ones are on the way every year. In all likelihood, cumulative global electric vehicle sales will reach one million by late 2015.
Motives for accelerating the transition to an electric fleet are diverse. Electric vehicles hold out the promise of dramatically lower oil consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and clean air. National governments and private industry are competing for leadership in the advanced technologies that go in to electric vehicles. Most long-term planning scenarios indicate that the global vehicle fleet will have to be almost entirely made up of electric-drive vehicles, powered mostly by renewable power sources, by 2050 if the world is to avoid worst-case global climate-change scenarios.
Governments at all levels, the automotive industry, electric utilities, and civil society groups are all seeking to promote electric vehicles with incentives, regulations, charging infrastructure, and information campaigns. This many-faceted approach acknowledges the incremental costs and other challenges that will make the shift to an electric-drive fleet a decades-long process.
At the ICCT, we work to understand and describe what policies and incentives are proving to be effective—and how—during these early stages of the global electric vehicle market. We analyze trends in electric-vehicle technologies and in vehicle markets. We evaluate factors like tax incentives, non-fiscal promotional policies, and infrastructure to know how prospective electric vehicle buyers perceive and react to these new technologies. We compare the different policy approaches being pursued in countries and cities around the world to better understand the emerging best practices to accelerate the transition to an electrified global vehicle fleet.