Transition to a global zero-emission vehicle fleet: A collaborative agenda for governments

Published: 2015.09.29

Nic Lutsey

Governments around the world are seeking to promote electric vehicles—to reduce oil consumption, climate-related emissions, and local air pollution, and to stake out an industrial leadership position in the new advanced technology. These efforts are increasingly diverse, with governments, automakers, and advocates working to raise public awareness, promote sales, adapt the regulatory environment, build charging infrastructure, and provide financial support. Yet key questions remain—about which policy actions are working well, about how the various efforts around the world compare, and about whether best policy practices to promote electric vehicles are emerging.

This paper synthesizes information on global electric vehicle policy activity as a foundation for increasing collaboration among governments around the world. It summarizes global adoption trends and national targets, as well as electric vehicle promotion policies (e.g., consumer incentives and charging infrastructure support) in selected markets. It summarizes research on the effectiveness of various electric vehicle policies to investigate emerging best practices. And it points toward an agenda for increased international cooperation and joint research to accelerate the transition to a zero-emission global vehicle fleet.

The paper offers three main conclusions:

  • Policy action by leading governments is spurring electric vehicle deployment. The most comprehensive electric vehicle promotion actions globally are in Norway, the Netherlands, and California, and they are resulting in electric vehicle deployment that is more than 10 times the international average.
  • Best practices in electric vehicle promotion policies are emerging. Stringent efficiency standards, support for R&D, and national planning appear to be necessary but insufficient to grow the electric vehicle market. Consumer incentives that reduce the cost of ownership are key. Home, workplace, and public charging infrastructure is also important. It is becoming increasingly clear that a comprehensive portfolio of national, state, and local actions is critical for the increased deployment and use of electric vehicles.
  • Greater international collaboration could better leverage existing efforts to promote zero-emission vehicles. The establishment of a zero-emission vehicle deployment target and an electric mobility target for 2035 would help establish a common long-term global electric-drive vision. Such goals would send clear signals about the pace of development and amount of resources that will be needed. Further coordinated research on policy effectiveness would help prioritize government actions that are most important in increasing zero-emission vehicle uptake and use.