Published on January 14th, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan
January 14th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
The Tesla Model 3 has become one of the top 10 best selling cars in the United States and Chinese electric vehicle market share has risen to 4.7% in 2019, but there are a few countries that stand out in an even more accomplished way on a relative basis. One of those is Norway, which reached a stunning 42% BEV (fully electric vehicle) market share and 56% plug-in vehicle (EV) market share in 2018. The Netherlands nearly rose as high last month, reaching 54% EV market share in December, and the country achieved 15% EV market share for the full year. But, as you can see from the headline, a northern country called Iceland made it clear that the Netherlands was no threat at all and winning the silver medal was a piece of cake for the island nation, as it logged a massive 25% EV market share in 2019.
Iceland has long been a leader in EV sales as a percentage of total auto industry sales. It has trailed only Norway along the S-curve of EV adoption. Now that Norway has passed 50% EV market share, it’s fitting that Iceland has achieved 25%. I’ll come back to that at the end of the article, but for now let’s jump into Iceland.
Top Selling Electric Vehicles in Iceland
The most stunning thing about Iceland’s 2019 accomplishment is that it was achieved with very little help from Tesla! Whereas the Tesla Model 3 is far and away the EV sales leader in almost every country it’s sold, it was way down at #14 on the list in Iceland. Being a somewhat tiny market disconnected from the rest of the world by vast expanses of ocean and cold, Iceland hasn’t been a priority for Tesla, which I assume is part of the reason for weaker adoption there. However, Tesla opened its first store in the country, in Reykjavik, in September 2019, so expect 2020 to be a much better year for the Californian automaker.
The big dog in Iceland, as in some other northern countries, was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The Outlander PHEV accounted for 21% of EV sales in Iceland, which means approximately 5% of the total auto market, or 1 out of every 20 vehicle sales. The solid and consistent Nissan LEAF was #2, with 10% of the EV market, or about 2.5% of the broader auto world. And the Volkswagen e-Golf was a little ways behind at #3, with 7% EV market share.
Iceland’s EV adoption is certainly fueled in part by the island’s miniature nature. It’s a very small country, which makes any concept of range anxiety even more absurd there than in other places. I presume high oil prices also play a large role. And it seems Icelandic people have greater climate awareness than normal peoples and an overall high level of awareness and education. All of these factors surely helped the country to achieve this nearly unmatched 25% market share milestone.[embedded content]
Like Norway, one of the great things about fast EV adoption in Iceland is that it’s already approximately 100% powered by clean, renewable energy. In total, Iceland must have one of the lightest footprints per capita on the planet.
The ironic thing is that Iceland reached this new level of EV market share despite the EV market collapsing 16% in 2019! The thing is, the fossil vehicle market collapsed even more. It dropped 32% in 2019 compared to 2018. That helped the last year of the decade see a sizable increase in EV market share, rising to 25% from 2018’s ~19% and 2017’s ~14% EV market share.
With the Tesla Model 3 fresh in Iceland, the Tesla Model Y not far off, and a variety of new and soon-to-arrive Volkswagen Group models hitting the Icelandic shores, expect 2020 and 2021 to set new EV market share records for the country. Iceland should continue to follow Norway’s path of EV adoption along the famous S-curve.
What about the Rest of the World?
As I’ve been noting in several articles this month, we’ve seen different EV-leading countries follow the same general curve for EV adoption, despite different incentives and quite varied EV model breakdowns within each market. Let’s look at four of these countries in a simple way, by showing market share year after year starting at around 3%:
- 2012 — 3%
- 2013 — 6%
- 2014 — 14%
- 2015 — 22%
- 2016 — 29%
- 2017 — 39%
- 2018 — 49%
- 2019 — 56%
- 2015 — 3%
- 2016 — 5%
- 2017 — 14%
- 2018 — 19%
- 2019 — 25%
- 2017 — 2%
- 2018 — 6%
- 2019 — 15%
- 2015 — 2.6%
- 2016 — 3.6%
- 2017 — 5%
- 2018 — 8%
- 2019 — 11%
As you can see, it often takes just about two years to go from 3% market share to 15% market share (Sweden is an exception). We only have two markets that have gone higher than that, and it took them 1½–2 years to then rise up to 25% EV market share. We’ll see what happens with the Netherlands (whose EV market has grown slightly quicker than Norway’s or Iceland’s but was heavily influenced by EV subsidies that dropped off on the first of this year) and Sweden (whose EV market has grown somewhat slower). The biggest question, though, is whether the rest of the world will follow these trends.
China, the largest auto market in the world and largest EV market in the world, has nearly reached 5% EV market share. Denmark was at 4% market share in 2019. The UK reached 3% EV market share in 2019. And numerous other markets are at around 2% or 3% EV market share. If most of these markets rise up to 15% EV market share in a couple of years and 25% a couple of years after that, we’re looking at around 20–25% EV market share globally by 2023, based on some back-of-the-envelope math. I’ll come back to this in coming days. For now, it’s interesting and uplifting to see that Iceland followed Norway’s EV adoption curve almost to the T.
Special thanks to José Pontes and EV Volumes for support with data in this article.
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