Worldwide electric and hybrid vehicle sales are surging as never before, with fresh data showing many countries doubling their sales figures in the first quarter of 2018, including Australia.
Data provided by industry statistician EV.columes.com shows that Australia sales rose by 132 per cent over the previous corresponding period.
Other countries to show strong growth included Finland (+144%) followed closely by South Korea (+138%), the Netherlands (+122%), Spain (+118%), and Canada (+114%).
More importantly, China also more than doubled its sales (113 per cent), and that is significant because it is by far the biggest market in the world.
In total, there has been a global increase in sales of 59% compared to the previous first quarter of 2017.
The EV.volumes data includes all global BEV and PHEV passenger car sales, as well as light commercial vehicles in Europe and light truck sales in the USA. The emerging light commercial vehicle sales market in China was also included in the data.
The figures, which are over double that of two years ago, show that overall, sales of plug-in hybrids are surging with a 69% increase, compared to a 52% increase for pure EV vehicle sales. PHEV sales are maintaining pace at a 39% increase for Q1-2018.
In terms of market share, the Scandinavian countries Norway, Iceland and Sweden continue to have a high uptake of electric or hybrid vehicles.
Whereas EV market share in other countries globally are 2.5% or lower, an astonishing 46% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric cars, up from only 23% as reported by the Centre of Automotive Management (CAM) in Germany.
Iceland figures show a 26% market share while in Sweden, 7% of EV sales account for new cars purchased in the first quarter of this year .
This is expected to increase when Sweden brings in its new taxation scheme on July 1, 2018, which will encourage the uptake of low emissions vehicles through a bonus-malus system.
In China, industrial policy is the motivating force driving EV vehicle sales, comments Stefan Bratzel at CAM.
While Chinese New Year events and delayed subsidy approvals resulted in a poor January, sales were still strong and the 113% increase must be seen in that light, says EV-volumes.com.
Meanwhile, well-known PHEV models Toyota Prius and Mitsubishi Outlander remain popular, experiencing a 14% and 45% growth respectively compared to 2017 YoY sales.
In Japan, these as well as the Nissan Leaf comprise 90% of plug-in sales, with the Prius taking a hit from increased Leaf sales.
Generally speaking, the Nissan Leaf is flavour of the first quarter, with data showing over 22,000 units sold which is an increase of 44% YoY, with sales of the model not only strong in Japan but also in Europe.
While the USA is yet to see a delivery of the Nissan Leaf II, it was reported in Renew Economy that Australia can expect to see the new model in the new fiscal year. With the Leaf’s gaining popularity, that’s surely good news for EV enthusiasts.
The EV.Volumes data shows Tesla Model S deliveries down in the first quarter and Model X deliveries static. This reflects focus on the new Model 3, where production issues are expected to be resolved, with a goal of lifting output to 5,000 a week by the end of June.
But with reports of a factory being set up in Shanghai, China, where EV sales are booming – there is a strong chance of a big lift in sales over the medium term as it gains greater access to the world’s biggest market.
An estimated 3.3 million plug-in vehicles were on the road at the end of 2017. First quarter 2018 sales increased by 59 %, but the numbers compare to a poor start in 2017, with dismal January results in China.
The data predicts a total of 1.9 to 2 million worldwide plug-in sales for 2018, of which 400,000 in the US – if Tesla reaches the Model-3 ramp-up production goals – plus 430,000 in Europe, 920,000 in China and 150,000 elsewhere.
Note: This article has been updated to clarify movement of Tesla car sales.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.