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Electric car chargers grew by 60% as EV sales rose just 6%

For many households, public charging infrastructure is necessary for electric cars to replace gasoline vehicles, while for companies or utilities, electric cars are necessary to support such an infrastructure. Which comes first?

Short answer before pondering about chicken and eggs: The growth ebbs and flows, and it depends where in the world you are. A report released Monday by the International Energy Agency, called “Global EV Outlook 2020,” helps highlight that with some simple pie charts. 

Globally the number of publicly accessible chargers of all types increased by 60% in 2019 versus 2018—a higher rate than the vehicle growth itself. 

Americans have more single-family households, driveways, and garages than in many other parts of the world. As of 2019, the U.S. had about 12% of the global stock of the world’s 7.2 million EVs, but 24% of the global private (slow) chargers in the world. Public fast chargers by country – IEA, 2020

When you switch to publicly accessible chargers, the U.S. looks markedly less prepared. The U.S. has 11% of the world’s publicly accessible public (slow) chargers, and just 5% of the world’s public fast chargers (versus about 6% for Europe). China, on the other hand, has 82% of the world’s fast chargers.

A recent report by the market-research firm Wood Mackenzie anticipated that Europe will pull ahead of the U.S. in fast-charging infrastructure but it will catch up by 2030—perhaps with the greater charging-infrastructure spending that’s proposed in Congress.  

The EIA predicts that total global passenger car sales will decline in 2020 by 15% while EVs will hold the line, essentially matching their 2.1 million sales total from 2019. 

Up until this past year, global EV sales grew by at least 30 percent annually, according to IEA. In 2019 that growth slowed to 6%, yet they managed their highest-ever market share in 2019, with 2.6% of the global vehicle market. 

According to the IEA, that resulted in a total electric-vehicle stock of 880,000 in the U.S. and 3.79 million in the world.

China again exceeded one million EV sales in 2019, although its sales were down 2% versus the year earlier. Europe was second globally, at 561,000, and the U.S. had 327,000 EV sales. And the expiration of the U.S. EV tax credit for GM and Tesla contributed to a 10% drop in BEV sales in the U.S. over the year, it noted—while sales in Europe rose by 50%. 

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