Electric car

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Modern all-electric cars
Nissan Leaf on the highway
BMW i3 charging on the street
Renault Zoe on the street

An electric car (also battery electric car or all-electric car) is a plug-in electric automobile that is propelled by one or more electric motors, using energy typically stored in rechargeable batteries.

Since 2008, a renaissance in electric vehicle manufacturing occurred due to advances in batteries, concerns about increasing oil prices, and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[1][2] Several national and local governments have established tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to promote the introduction and adoption in the mass market of new electric vehicles, often depending on battery size, their electric range and purchase price. The current maximum tax credit allowed by the US Government is US$7,500 per car.[3] Compared with internal combustion engine vehicles, electric cars are quieter and have no tailpipe emissions, and, often lower emissions in general.[4]

Charging an electric car can be done at a variety of charging stations, these charging stations can be installed in both houses and public areas.[5] The two best selling electric cars, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, have EPA-rated ranges reaching up to 151 mi (243 km) and 335 mi (539 km) respectively.[6][7]

As of September 2018, there are over 4 million all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars in use around the world,[8][9][10] of which, 2.6 million were pure electric cars (65%).[11] The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling highway-capable electric car ever with 370,000 units sold globally, followed by the Tesla Model S with 253,000 units sold worldwide, both through October 2018.[12][13]


NASA's Lunar Roving Vehicles were battery-driven

Electric cars are a variety of electric vehicle (EV). The term "electric vehicle" refers to any vehicle that uses electric motors for propulsion, while "electric car" generally refers to highway-capable automobiles powered by electricity. Low-speed electric vehicles, classified as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) in the United States,[14] and as electric motorised quadricycles in Europe,[15] are plug-in electric-powered microcars or city cars with limitations in terms of weight, power and maximum speed that are allowed to travel on public roads and city streets up to a certain posted speed limit, which varies by country.

While an electric car's power source is not explicitly an on-board battery, electric cars with motors powered by other energy sources are typically referred to by a different name. An electric car carrying solar panels to power it is a solar car, and an electric car powered by a gasoline generator is a form of hybrid car. Thus, an electric car that derives its power from an on-board battery pack is a form of battery electric vehicle (BEV). Most often, the term "electric car" is used to refer to battery electric vehicles, but may also refer to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).


Early electric car, built by Thomas Parker, photo from 1895[16]
The General Motors EV1, one of the cars introduced due to the California Air Resources Board mandate, had a range of 160 mi (260 km) with NiMH batteries in 1999
The Tesla Roadster helped inspire the modern generation of electric vehicles.

In 1884, over 20 years before the Ford Model T, Thomas Parker built the first practical production electric car in London using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.[17][18][19] The Flocken Elektrowagen of 1888 was designed by German inventor Andreas Flocken.[20] Electric cars were among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion in the late 19th century and early 20th century, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time.[21] The electric vehicle stock peaked at approximately 30,000 vehicles at the turn of the 20th century.[22]

In 1897, electric cars found their first commercial use in the US. Based on the design of the Electrobat II, a fleet of twelve hansom cabs and one brougham were used in New York City as part of a project funded in part by the Electric Storage Battery Company of Philadelphia.[23] During the 20th century, the main manufacturers of electric vehicles in the US were Anthony Electric, Baker, Columbia, Anderson, Edison, Riker, Milburn, Bailey Electric and others. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, the electric ones were less noisy, and did not require gear changes.[24][better source needed]

Advances in internal combustion engines (ICE) in the first decade of the 20th century lessened the relative advantages of the electric car. Their much quicker refueling times, and cheaper production costs, made them more popular. However, a decisive moment was the introduction in 1912 of the electric starter motor which replaced other, often laborious, methods of starting the ICE, such as hand-cranking.[citation needed]

Six electric cars held the land speed record.[25] The last of them was the rocket-shaped La Jamais Contente, driven by Camille Jenatzy, which broke the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier by reaching a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph) on 29 April 1899.

In the early 1990s, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began a push for more fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles, with the ultimate goal being a move to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles.[1][26] In response, automakers developed electric models, including the Chrysler TEVan, Ford Ranger EV pickup truck, GM EV1, and S10 EV pickup, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan Altra EV miniwagon, and Toyota RAV4 EV. Both US Electricar and Solectria produced 3-phase AC Geo-bodied electric cars with the support of GM, Hughes, and Delco. These early cars were eventually withdrawn from the U.S. market.[27]

California electric automaker Tesla Motors began development in 2004 on what would become the Tesla Roadster (2008), which was first delivered to customers in 2008. The Roadster was the first highway legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 320 km (200 miles) per charge.[28]

Tesla global sales passed 250,000 units in September 2017.[29][30] The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance achieved the milestone of 500,000 units electric vehicles sold in October 2017.[31] Tesla sold its 200,000th Model S in the fourth quarter of 2017.[32] Global Leaf sales passed 300,000 units in January 2018, keeping its record as the world's top selling plug-in electric car ever.[33] Tesla delivered its 100,000th Model 3 in October 2018.[34]

Many countries have set goals to ban the sales of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles in the future, notably; Norway by 2025, China by 2030, India by 2030, Germany by 2030, France by 2040, and Britain by 2040 or 2050.[35][36][37] Similarly, more cities around the world have begun transitioning public transportation towards electric vehicles, than previously was the case.[38]


Total cost of ownership[edit]

As of 2018, electric cars are less expensive to run than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles due to the lower cost of repairs and energy.[39] However, as of 2018, electric cars on average cost significantly more to initially buy,[40][41] and depreciate more quickly than conventional cars.[42]

The Chinese auto manufacturer BYD calculated on its website in 2015 that a BYD e6 taxi over five years would give a saving of about $74,000 over the equivalent petrol consumption.[43]

In 2018 the Australian Federal Government’s advisory firm on vehicle emissions estimated the TCO for electric cars was 5 to 10 thousand dollars more per year than a roughly equivalent petrol powered car.[44][45]

Purchase cost[edit]

Several national and local governments have established incentives to reduce the purchasing price of electric cars and other plug-ins.[46][47][48][49]

When designing an electric vehicle, manufacturers may find that for low production, converting existing platforms may be cheaper as development cost is lower, however, for higher production, a dedicated platform may be preferred to optimize design, and cost.[50]

Almost 80% of electric vehicles in the U.S. are leased, while the lease rate for the country's entire fleet is about 30%.[51] In early 2018, electric compact cars of 2014 are worth 23 percent of their original sticker price, as comparable cars with combustion engines worth 41 percent.[51]

Batteries play a significant cost when designing an electric vehicle, for example; Tesla Motors uses batteries that cost around $200 per kilowatt hour.[52][53][54]

Operating cost[edit]

According to a study done in 2018, the average operating cost of an electric vehicle in the United States is $485 per year, as opposed to an Internal combustion engines $1,117 per year.[55]

Environmental aspects[edit]

Electric cars have several benefits over conventional internal combustion engine automobiles, including a significant reduction of local air pollution, as they do not directly emit pollutants such as particulates (soot), volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen.[56][57][58]

Depending on the production process and the source of the electricity to charge the vehicle, emissions may be partly shifted from cities to the material transportation, production plants and generation plants.[1] The amount of carbon dioxide emitted depends on the emissions of the electricity source, and the efficiency of the vehicle. For electricity from the grid, the emissions vary significantly depending on your region, the availability of renewable sources and the efficiency of the fossil fuel-based generation used.[59][60][61]

The same is true of ICE vehicles. The sourcing of fossil fuels (oil well to tank) causes further damage and use of resources during the extraction and refinement processes,including high amounts of electricity.

In December 2014, Nissan announced that Leaf owners have accumulated together 1 billion kilometers (620 million miles) driven. This translates into saving 180 million kilograms of CO2 emissions by driving an electric car in comparison to travelling with a gasoline-powered car.[62] In December 2016, Nissan reported that Leaf owners worldwide achieved the milestone of 3 billion kilometers (1.9 billion miles) driven collectively through November 2016.[63]


Acceleration and drivetrain design[edit]

Rimac Concept One, electric supercar, since 2013. 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.5 seconds, 1224 hp[64]

Electric motors can provide high power-to-weight ratios, batteries can be designed to supply the currents needed to support these motors. Electric motors have flat torque curve down to zero speed. For simplicity and reliability, many electric cars use fixed-ratio gearboxes and have no clutch.

Many electric cars have motors that have high acceleration, relative to comparable cars, however, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles may have a low acceleration due to their relatively weak motors. This is largely due to the relatively constant torque of an electric motor, which often increase the acceleration relative to a similar motor power internal combustion engine.[citation needed]

Electric vehicles can also use a direct motor-to-wheel configuration which increases the available power. Having motors connected directly to each wheel allows the wheels to be used both for propulsion and as braking systems, thereby increasing traction.[65][66][67] When not fitted with an axle, differential, or transmission, electric vehicles have less drive-train inertia.

For example, the Venturi Fetish delivers supercar acceleration despite a relatively modest 220 kW (300 hp), and top speed of around 160 km/h (100 mph). Some DC-motor-equipped drag racer EVs have simple two-speed manual transmissions to improve top speed.[68] The Tesla Roadster (2008) 2.5 Sport can accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 3.7 seconds with a motor rated at 215 kW (288 hp).[69] Tesla Model S P100D (Performance / 100kWh / 4-wheel drive) is capable of 2.28 seconds for 0–60 mph at a price of $140,000 [1]. As of May 2017, the P100D is the second fastest production car ever built, taking only 0.08 seconds longer for 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph), compared to a $847,975 Porsche 918 Spyder.[70] The electric supercar Rimac Concept One can go from 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph) in 2.5 seconds.

Energy efficiency[edit]

Internal combustion engines have thermodynamic limits on efficiency, expressed as fraction of energy used to propel the vehicle compared to energy produced by burning fuel. Gasoline engines effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content to move the vehicle or to power accessories, and diesel engines can reach on-board efficiency of 20%, while electric vehicles have on-board efficiency of over 90%, when counted against stored chemical energy, or around 80%, when counted against required energy to recharge.[71]

Electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines in converting stored energy into driving a vehicle. Electric cars can not idle. Regenerative braking, which is most common in electric vehicles, can recover as much as one fifth of the energy normally lost during braking.[1][71]

Production and conversion electric cars typically use 10 to 23 kW·h/100 km (0.17 to 0.37 kW·h/mi).[72][73] Approximately 20% of this power consumption is due to inefficiencies in charging the batteries. Tesla Motors indicates that the vehicle efficiency (including charging inefficiencies) of their lithium-ion battery powered vehicle is 12.7 kW·h/100 km (0.21 kW·h/mi) and the well-to-wheels efficiency (if the electricity is generated from natural gas) is 24.4 kW·h/100 km (0.39 kW·h/mi).[74]

Cabin heating and cooling[edit]

While heating can be provided with an electric resistance heater, higher efficiency and integral cooling can be obtained with a reversible heat pump. PTC junction cooling[75] is also attractive for its simplicity — this kind of system is used, for example, in the Tesla Roadster (2008).

To avoid using part of the battery's energy for heating and thus reducing the range, some models allow the cabin to be heated while the car is plugged in. For example, the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S can be pre-heated while the vehicle is plugged in.[76][77][78]

Some electric cars, for example the Citroën Berlingo Electrique, use an auxiliary heating system (for example gasoline-fueled units manufactured by Webasto or Eberspächer) but sacrifice "green" and "Zero emissions" credentials. Cabin cooling can be augmented with solar power, or by automatically allowing outside air to flow through the car when parked. Two models of the 2010 Toyota Prius include this feature as an option.[79]


Side impact test of a Tesla Model X

The safety issues of BEVs are largely dealt with by the international standard ISO 6469. This document is divided in three parts dealing with specific issues:

  • On-board electrical energy storage, i.e. the battery
  • Functional safety means and protection against failures
  • Protection of persons against electrical hazards.

Risk of fire[edit]

Like their internal combustion engine counterparts, electric vehicle batteries can catch fire after a crash or mechanical failure.[80] Plug-in electric vehicle fire incidents have occurred, albeit less per mile than I.C.E vehicles.[81] The first modern crash-related fire was reported in China in May 2012, after a high-speed car crashed into a BYD e6 taxi in Shenzhen.[82] The second reported incident occurred in the United States on October 1, 2013, when a Tesla Model S caught fire over ten minutes after the electric car hit metal debris on a highway in Kent, Washington state, and the debris punctured one of 16 modules within the battery pack.[83][84] A third reported fire occurred on October 18, 2013 in Merida, Mexico. In this case the vehicle was being driven at high speed through a roundabout and crashed through a wall and into a tree. The fire broke out several minutes after the driver exited the vehicle.

In the United States, General Motors ran in several cities a training program for firefighters and first responders to demonstrate how to safely disable the Chevrolet Volt’s powertrain and its 12 volt electrical system. The Volt's high-voltage system is designed to shut down automatically in the event of an airbag deployment, and to detect a loss of communication from an airbag control module.[85][86] GM also made available an Emergency Response Guide for the 2011 Volt for use by emergency responders. The guide also describes methods of disabling the high voltage system and identifies cut zone information.[87] Nissan also published a guide for first responders that details procedures for handling a damaged 2011 Leaf at the scene of an accident, including a manual high-voltage system shutdown, rather than the automatic process built-in the car's safety systems.[88][89]

Vehicle safety[edit]

The weight of the batteries themselves usually makes an EV heavier than a comparable gasoline vehicle, in a collision, the occupants of a heavy vehicle will on average, suffer fewer and less serious injuries than the occupants of a lighter vehicle; therefore, the additional weight brings safety benefits[90] despite having a negative effect on the car's performance.[91] Depending on where the battery is located, it may lower the center of gravity, increasing driving stability, lowering the risk of an accident through loss of control. An accident in a 2,000 lb (900 kg) vehicle will on average cause about 50% more injuries to its occupants than a 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) vehicle.[92]

Some electric cars use low rolling resistance tires, which typically offer less grip than normal tires.[93][94][95] The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in America had condemned the use of low speed vehicles and "mini trucks," referred to as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) when powered by electric motors, on public roads.[96] Mindful of this, several companies (Tesla Motors, BMW, Uniti) have succeeded in keeping the body light, while making it very strong.[97]

Hazard to pedestrians[edit]

At low speeds, electric cars produced less roadway noise than vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines. Blind or visually impaired people consider the noise of combustion engines a helpful aid while crossing streets, hence electric cars and hybrids could pose an unexpected hazard.[98][99] Tests have shown that this is a valid concern, as vehicles operating in electric mode can be particularly hard to hear below 20 mph (30 km/h), which affects all road users, not just the visually impaired. At higher speeds, the sound created by tire friction and the air displaced by the vehicle start to make sufficient audible noise.[99]

The Government of Japan, the U.S. Congress, and the European Parliament passed legislation to regulate the minimum level of sound for hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles when operating in electric mode, so that blind people and other pedestrians and cyclists can hear them coming and detect from which direction they are approaching.[99][100][101][102] The Nissan Leaf was the first electric car to use Nissan's Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians system, which includes one sound for forward motion and another for reverse.[103][104] As of January 2014, most of the hybrids and plug-in electric and hybrids available in the United States, Japan and Europe make warning noises using a speaker system. The Tesla Model S is one of the few electric cars without warning sounds; Tesla Motors will wait until regulations are enacted.[105] Volkswagen and BMW also decided to only add artificial sounds to their electric drive cars only when required by regulation.[106]

Several anti-noise and electric car advocates have opposed the introduction of artificial sounds as warning for pedestrians, as such an introduction is based on vehicle type and not actual noise level, a concern regarding ICE vehicles which themselves are becoming quieter.


As of 2018, most Electric cars have similar driving controls to that of a car with a conventional automatic transmission. Even though the motor may be permanently connected to the wheels through a fixed-ratio gear and no parking pawl may be present the modes "P" and "N" are often still provided on the selector. In this case the motor is disabled in "N" and an electrically actuated hand brake provides the "P" mode.

In some cars the motor will spin slowly to provide a small amount of creep in "D", similar to a traditional automatic.[107]

When the foot is lifted from the accelerator of an ICE, engine braking causes the car to slow. An EV would coast under these conditions, if it wasn't for regenerative braking which instead provides a more familiar response and recharges the battery to an extent. These features also reduce the use of the conventional brakes, significantly reducing wear and tear and maintenance costs as well as improving vehicle range.


Prototypes of 50 watt-hour/kilogram lithium-ion polymer battery. Newer lithium-ion cells can provide up to 130 W·h/kg and last through thousands of charging cycles

Lithium-based batteries are often chosen for their high power and energy density, although may wear out over a long period of time.[108] However, there are many emerging technologies trying to combat this issue.

There are also other battery types, such as Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries which have a poorer power to weight ratio than lithium ion, but are cheaper. Several other battery chemistries are in development such as zinc-air battery which could be much lighter.


External image
List of ranges for electric cars in Norway as of 2014

The range of an electric car depends on the number and type of batteries used, and as with all vehicles, the weight and type of vehicle, performance requirements, and the weather.[109]

Comparison of EPA-rated range for model year 2016 and 2017 electric cars rated up until July 2017. Tesla vehicles shown correspond to the variants with the longest and shortest range for each model[110][111]

The range of production electric vehicles in 2017 ranged from 100 kilometres (62 mi) (Renault Twizy) to 540 kilometres (340 mi) (Tesla Model S 100D)[112]

The majority of electric cars are fitted with a display of expected range. This may take into account many factors of how the vehicle is being used, and what the battery is powering. However, since factors can vary over the route, the estimate can vary from the actual achieved range. The display allows the driver to make informed choices about driving speed and whether to stop at a charging point en route. Some roadside assistance organizations offer charge trucks to recharge electric cars in case of emergency.[113]

A study in 2016 stated that 87% of US vehicle-days can be met by current affordable electric cars.[114][115]


Electric cars are typically charged overnight from a charging station installed in the owner's house, or from faster charging stations found in businesses and public areas.[116]

An overnight charge of 8 hours will only give about a 40 mile charge with a standard 120 volt outlet whereas a 240 volt outlet would give around 180 miles in the same amount of time. [117]

Within each major region of the world, electric car charging stations are essentially universal across car and charger brands, and simply plugging in a charger into an electric car will charge the car at the fastest rate that car and charger can support. A notable exception are the Tesla line of cars and charging stations, which use their own proprietary chargers. However, this can be solved by using a converter.[118]

Some companies have been experimenting with battery swapping to eliminate delay while charging.[119]

Panoramic view of Tesla supercharger rapid charging station in Tejon Ranch, California
BYD e6 is able to recharge in 15 Minutes to 80 percent

Hybrid vehicles[edit]

The BMW i3 has an optional gasoline-powered range extender engine

Some electric vehicles have built in generators, these are considered a type of hybrid vehicle.


As with all lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicle batteries may degrade over long periods of time, especially if they are frequently overcharged, however, this may take at least several years before being noticeable.[120]

However, Nissan stated in 2015 that thus far only 0.01 percent of batteries had to be replaced because of failures or problems, and then only because of externally inflicted damage. The vehicles that had already covered more than 200,000 km (124,274 mi), have no problems with the battery.[121]


Over half of the world's cobalt, a key element in lithium-ion batteries, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the children are forced to mine the cobalt while having little to no protection. [122]


Autonomous park-and-charge

Volkswagen, in collaboration with six partners, is developing an EU research project that is focused on automating the parking and charging of electric vehicles. The objective of this project is to develop a smart car system that allows for autonomous driving in designated areas (e.g. valet parking, park and ride) and can offer advanced driver support in urban environments.[123] Tesla has shown interest in making an arm that automatically charges their vehicles.[124]

Lithium availability
The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is one of the largest known lithium reserves in the world[125][126]

It is estimated that there are sufficient lithium reserves to power 4 billion electric cars.[127][128] Most electric cars use a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor which uses rare-earth elements. The demand for lithium, heavy metals, and other elements (such as neodymium, boron and cobalt) required for the batteries and powertrain is expected to grow significantly due to the future sales increase of plug-in electric vehicles in the mid and long term.[129][130] Some of the largest world reserves of lithium and other rare metals are located in countries with strong resource nationalism, unstable governments or hostility to U.S. interests, raising concerns about the risk of replacing dependence on foreign oil with a new dependence on hostile countries to supply strategic materials.[125][129][130][131]

Other methods of energy storage

Experimental supercapacitors and flywheel energy storage devices offer comparable storage capacity, faster charging, and lower volatility. They have the potential to overtake batteries as the preferred rechargeable storage for EVs.[132][133] The FIA included their use in its sporting regulations of energy systems for Formula One race vehicles in 2007 (for supercapacitors) and 2009 (for flywheel energy storage devices).

Solar cars

Solar cars are electric vehicles powered completely or significantly by direct solar energy, usually, through photovoltaic (PV) cells contained in solar panels that convert the sun's energy directly into electric energy, usually used to charge a battery.

Electric vehicle charging patents[edit]

Qualcomm, Hyundai, Ford, and Mitsubishi are the top patent holders of the close to 800 electric vehicle charging patents filed between 2014 and 2017.[134] A majority of patents on electric vehicle charging were filed in Japan between 2014 and 2017. It is followed by the US and then by China.[135]


Charging station[edit]

Charging station at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This station is run by Petrobras and uses solar energy

Battery Electric Vehicles are most commonly charged from the power grid overnight at the owner's house, provided they have their own charging station. The electricity on the grid is in turn generated from a variety of sources; such as coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear and others. Power sources such as photovoltaic solar cell panels, micro hydro or wind may also be used and are promoted because of concerns regarding global warming.

Charging stations can have a variety of different speeds of charging, with slower charging being more common for houses, and more powerful charging stations on public roads and areas for trips.[136] The BMW i3 can charge 0–80% of the battery in under 30 minutes in rapid charging mode.[137] The superchargers developed by Tesla Motors provided up to 130 kW of charging, allowing a 300-mile charge in about an hour.[138]


Most electric cars have used conductive coupling to supply electricity for recharging after the California Air Resources Board settled on the SAE J1772-2001 standard[139] as the charging interface for electric vehicles in California in June 2001.[140] In Europe, the ACEA has decided to use the Type 2 connector from the range of IEC_62196 plug types for conductive charging of electric vehicles in the European Union, as the Type 1 connector (SAE J1772-2009) does not provide for three-phase charging.[141]

Another approach is inductive charging using a non-conducting "paddle" inserted into a slot in the car. Delco Electronics developed the Magne Charge inductive charging system around 1998 for the General Motors EV1 which was also used for the Chevrolet S-10 EV and Toyota RAV4 EV vehicles.

Vehicle-to-grid: uploading and grid buffering[edit]

During peak load periods, when the cost of generation can be very high, electric vehicles could contribute energy to the grid. These vehicles can then be recharged during off-peak hours at cheaper rates while helping to absorb excess night time generation. Here the batteries in the vehicles serve as a distributed storage system to buffer power.[citation needed]


Electric vehicles provide for less dependence on foreign oil, which for the United States and other developed or emerging countries is cause for concern about vulnerability to oil price volatility and supply disruption.[1][142][143] Also for many developing countries, and particularly for the poorest in Africa, high oil prices have an adverse impact on their balance of payments, hindering their economic growth.[144][145] In the United States, presidential candidate Obama proposed in 2008 "1 million plug-in and electric" cars by 2015.[146] At the end of 2015 about 550 thousand plugin-in vehicles had been sold in the US.[147]

Currently available electric cars[edit]

Highway capable[edit]

The Nissan Leaf (left) is the world's top selling highway-legal plug-in electric car ever, with 370,000 units sold, followed by the Tesla Model S (right), with 253,000 units, both by October 2018.[12][13]

As of December 2015, there were over 30 models of highway-capable all-electric passenger cars and utility vans available in the market for retail sales.[148] The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is the world's leading all-electric vehicle manufacturer. By mid-2018, the Alliance's global all-electric vehicle sales totaled about 600,000 units, including those manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors, now part of the Alliance.[31][149]

Tesla is the second best-selling all-electric vehicle manufacturer with almost 500,000 electric cars delivered worldwide by November 2018.[11] Its Model S was the world's best selling plug-in electric car for two years in a row, 2015 and 2016.[150][151][152][32]

The world's all-time top selling highway legal electric car is the Nissan Leaf with global sales of 370,000 units, followed by the Tesla Model S with global sales of 253,000 cars, both as of October 2018.[12][13] The Renault Kangoo Z.E. utility van is the leader of the light-duty all-electric segment with global sales of 35,310 units through September 2018.[153][154]

The following table lists the all-time best-selling highway-capable all-electric passenger cars with cumulative global sales of around or more than 100,000 units since their inception through October 2018:

Top selling highway-capable all-electric passenger cars produced between 2008 and October 2018(1)
Model Market
Nissan Leaf[12] Dec 2010 370,000 Oct 2018
Tesla Model S[13] Jun 2012 ~253,000 Oct 2018
BAIC EC-Series[13] Dec 2016 ~150,000(3) Oct 2018
BMW i3[13] Nov 2013 ~130,000(2) Oct 2018
Renault Zoe[153][155] Dec 2012 122,642 Oct 2018
Chery eQ[13] Nov 2014 ~110,000(3) Oct 2018
Tesla Model X[13] Sep 2015 ~110,000 Oct 2018
Tesla Model 3[13] Jul 2017 ~103,000 Oct 2018
(1) Vehicles are considered highway-capable if able to achieve at least a top speed of
100 km/h (62 mph).
(2) BMW i3 sales includes the REx variant. (3) Sales in main China only.

Electric cars by country[edit]

Annual sales of plug-in electric passenger cars in the world's top markets between 2011 and 2017[156][157][158][159]

Global sales of highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars and light utility vehicles achieved the one million milestone in September 2015, almost twice as fast as hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). While it took four years and 10 months for the plug-in segment to reach one-million sales, it took more than around nine years and a few months for HEVs to reach its first million sales.[160][161] Cumulative global sales of light-duty all-electric vehicles reached one million units in September 2016.[162][163]

Cumulative global sales of plug-in cars passed 2 million in December 2016,[164] the 3 million mark in November 2017,[165] and 4 million in September 2018.[8][9][10] Despite the rapid growth experienced, the stock of plug-in electric cars represented just about 1 out of every 300 vehicles on the world's roads by September 2018.[8] When global sales are broken down by type of powertrain, all-electric cars have oversold plug-in hybrids, the global ratio between the stock of all-electrics (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) was 61:39 at the end of 2016.[166] According to Navigant Research, there were about 2.6 million all-electric cars on the world's roads by November 2018.[11]

Government subsidy[edit]

Several countries have established grants and tax credits for the purchase of new electric cars, often depending on battery size. The U.S. offers a federal income tax credit up to US$7,500,[49] and several states have additional incentives.[167] The UK offers a Plug-in Car Grant up to a maximum of GB£4,500 (US$5,929).[168] The U.S. government also pledged US$2.4 billion in federal grants for the development of advanced technologies for electric cars and batteries,[169] despite the fact that overall sales aren't increasing at the expected speed.[170]

As of April 2011, 15 European Union member states provide economic incentives for the purchase of new electrically chargeable vehicles, which consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as well as of bonus payments for buyers of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and some alternative fuel vehicles.[171][172]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Sperling, Daniel; Gordon, Deborah (2009). Two billion cars: driving toward sustainability. Oxford University Press. pp. 22–26. ISBN 978-0-19-537664-7.
  2. ^ David B. Sandalow, ed. (2009). Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington? (1st. ed.). The Brookings Institution. pp. 1–6. ISBN 978-0-8157-0305-1.See Introduction
  3. ^ "Electric Vehicles: Tax Credits and Other Incentives". Department of Energy. US. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  4. ^ "Reducing Pollution with Electric Vehicles | Department of Energy". www.energy.gov. Retrieved 2018-05-12.
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  6. ^ "2018 Nissan Leaf electric car gets 151-mile EPA range rating". Green Car Reports. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
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