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Published on June 8th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


More Than 1 Million EVs Are On The Roads Now, Only Decarbonizing Tech On Schedule To Keep Warming Below 2ºC

June 8th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Carbon Brief.
By Sophie Yeo

In 2015, the number of electric cars on the road globally passed the one million threshold for the first time.

The rapid growth of the industry means that it is now the only technology sector on track to meet the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2C scenario.

This is the conclusion of the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 report, which it released on Wednesday. This is the latest edition of its annual progress review of the technologies that will determine the rate of global emissions, including renewables, nuclear, CCS, and coal.

Last year’s report, covered by Carbon Brief, painted a bleak picture. It deemed that none of the 19 technologies it tracks had made the necessary progress to limit global temperature rise to below 2ºC. It said that five technologies were off track, while the remaining 14 were failing to improve fast enough.

One year on, its assessment is equally bleak. The number of technologies off track has risen to six, while 11 are failing to improve fast enough. Only electric vehicles have made to jump towards actually being on track to meet the 2C goal modeled by the IEA.



The IEA’s 2C scenario (2DS) sets out a pathway that would lead to a 50% chance of limiting global average temperature rise since the pre-industrial era to 2C. This means cutting CO2 emissions almost 60% by 2050 compared to 2013 levels.

This scenario – as is also the case for its 4C and 6C scenarios – includes milestones for energy supply, buildings, industry and transport. Emissions reductions across all these sectors, it says, are vital for hitting the 2DS, as the graph below illustrates.


Global emissions reductions required across various sectors in order to reach interim 2025 targets that will lead to a 50% chance of staying below 2C. Source: IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2016.

Its models are a combination of forecasting to reflect near-term trends and “backcasting” to develop plausible pathways to the long-term outcome. The report then ranks progress based on how far each technology or sector is from its interim target for 2025 under the 2DS.

Electric vehicle progress

In 2015, sales of electric cars around the world amounted to 477,000, taking the total volume up to 1.15m. Sales grew by 70% over 2014 levels. The IEA says that this means it is catching up with the rates needed to meet the 2DS.

In an interview with Carbon Brief, the IEA’s chief economist Laszlo Varro says:

“Electric cars are roughly 10 years behind wind and solar in terms of deployment and technology development. Still, electric car technology is also gathering momentum. Electric cars increasingly capture the consumer’s imagination.”

The US, China, Netherlands, and Norway accounted for 70% of all the electric cars sold worldwide. In 2015, China became the world’s largest electric car market. But growth was also occurring outside these countries. The number of countries with a market share of electric cars greater than 1% grew from three in 2014 to six in 2015.

There have also been notable successes which show an “emerging niche” for electrification, says the IEA. This includes the decision of La Poste, France’s national mail carrier, to electrify its delivery fleet with 5,000 fully electric Renault Kangoos, with plans to double its electric fleet by 2020.


PHEV stands for plug-in hybrid vehicles, and BEV stands for battery electric vehicles. Source: IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2016.

Such growth is encouraging, says the IEA, after annual sales growth had slowed in 2014 to 53%.

To remain on track with the 2DS, average annual sales growth will have to be sustained at 66% through 2020 and at 39% through 2025. This now “seems achievable,” says the IEA, although it highlights that there will need to be sustained support. It says:

“Continued support for RD&D [research, development and deployment] is needed to hasten the milestone year when purchase costs of cars with all-electric ranges capable of meeting most driving needs reach parity with ICE [internal combustion engine] cars.”

This growth in electric cars has been helped by a simultaneous boom in public charging infrastructure, with the installation of fast DC chargers growing by 350% in China alone in 2015. This expanding network, along with improvements in driving range, is helping to narrow the gap between electric and conventional cars, and may foster broader adoption, the IEA says.

Working together

While the growth in electric cars is promising, the IEA emphasizes that everything is interlinked. “Decarbonization of electricity must accompany the push to electrify transport in the 2DS,” it says.

This is why the IEA insists on seeing the system as a whole within its scenarios. The 2C target cannot be hit unless there is also swift progress on renewable, nuclear, gas and coal-fired power, where the news is less positive. CCS and energy storage could also have an important role to play in a decarbonized power sector.

Reprinted with permission.

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  • rockyredneck

    Number of cars worldwide approximately 1.2 billion or 1200 million

    Number of new cars sold 2015 probably more than 80 million

  • JamesWimberley

    The IEA have consistently underestimated the growth in wind and solar power generation. Electric vehicles are doing very well, but from a tiny base and have yet to make a macro impact on emissions. Wind and solar are now the dominant technologies for new power generation, and prices are still falling.

    The problem may be that as policy wonks, they overestimate the impact of policy compared to technology and prices. Policy is still very supportive of evs in most countries – because thy have yet to present a real threat to fossil incumbents, and the tax expenditure is still low. Wind and solar, because they are a competitive threat, have run into policy headwinds in many places. But that won’t stop Godzilla.

  • Adrian

    I’d say we’re making good progress on coal, in North America anyway. CCS is likely utterly irrelevant and a waste of money. Likewise nuclear.

    Renewable energy – more needed, but it’s acting as a ceiling on gas prices, so that’s a start.

    Shipping and aviation are problems. Some ships are trying C/LNG which is a stopgap at best, but much better than sour bunker fuel. Aviation is playing with biofuels. Neither are likely enough. Hyperloop may help. Electrified rail would be nice too.

    Buildings is mostly a matter of fixing building codes, and older inefficient stock will turn over or upgrade to remain competitive. It’s already hard to rent out non-LEED certified space in some markets.

    Industry has work to do, particularly concrete and steel.

    My suspicion is that the barriers now are political, consumer perceptions and business “inertia”, not really technical.

    • Freddy D

      “the barriers now are political, consumer perceptions and business “inertia”, not really technical.”

      So true! Thanks. Add to that, barriers aren’t economic either since lower carbon is cheaper for buildings, transport, electric generation.

      So much of this is a policy problem now.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t see large policy problems. Minor stuff like some states trying to block Tesla sales. I don’t see policy blocking wind and solar installations.

        What I see is that not everyone has fully understood what has happened to the cost of wind and solar and how we will be much better off in a variety of ways when we quit using fossil fuels and move to renewables.

        People who read sites like this one are probably in the top 1% (3%, 5%) of being aware of renewable energy and ‘the state of the art’. Few people, I am sure, know about <4c wind and ~6c solar and that both are heading to 3c or less. Few people understand where EVs are and how close we are to EVs reaching purchase price parity with ICEVs. Lots of leaders in politics and science don't know. Some of the people leading the fight against climate change don't know.

        It's going to take a little more time for the changes that have happened and are happening are commonly enough known that the transition reaches full speed.

        I think the barrier right now is societal inertia which will be overcome by increased awareness. We can help speed things along by getting the good news in front of people's faces.

        • Freddy D

          Agree on the lack of perception / lack of understanding. One huge policy “opportunity” (problem) I see lies in the huge slice of the energy pie that is buildings, particularly climate control and water heating. Building codes are woefully behind the times and lax in most parts of the world. Germany gets it and has implemented standards that will take new construction energy consumption way down and will migrate toward “electrifying everything”. Tackling existing structures is a much larger challenge and, again, policy will need to drive this. The free market historically does a terrible job on their own on building efficiency and will continue to use natural gas indefinitely in the absence of policy changes to motivate people. Other areas too will continue down a “business as usual” path for decades without policy changes.

        • JamesWimberley

          6c solar? The 3c Dubai bid was an outlier (unknown developer and probably subsidised loans), but 4c/kwh was the average of the large Mexican auction, not the lowest bid.That’s now the reference price for the tropics. You can’t change insolation, so add a cent for the USA and two or three for Europe. Germany is paying more because the auction volumes are piffling and EU protectionism is keeping panel prices high, all to benefit one company, SolarWorld.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I was talking US prices. And I tend to use ‘conservative’ renewable energy prices. Ones that I can back up with solid links. There are far too many people who have bought the EIA bull that PV solar will cost over 12 cents five years from now. When you tell them that they’re off 2x they want something really reliable to back up one’s claim.

            I expect we’ll be able to talk about 5c US solar after October when the next NREL solar market report comes out. It was 6.5 cents (subsidy removed) in 2014 and the price of utility solar fell over 15% in 2015.

  • wattleberry

    The choice of EVs is hardly growing at all, which continues to be a source of disappointment and frustration for many of us,especially outside the US, where PHEVs are particularly relevant. It was good to see the leading position in sales of the new Volt but all we seem to have in this sector as an alternative, with acceptable ground clearance, is the Mitsubishi Outlander, a bulky vehicle way beyond the average requirement.
    We desperately want to participate so please give us a chance.

  • Freddy D

    Heating technology for buildings and houses is absolutely ready and economical. Policies have ignored it, however, and the equipment turnover is very slow. Deployment will take many decades. This is purely a policy problem at this point.

    Primary electric generation is also ready and has received more attention and deployment. It might do better. This is largely a policy problem at his point.

    The article is spot on for others: Industry, aviation, marine, stationary power, and many more don’t even have technically viable paths, let alone R&D or policy push.

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