China and California dominate the list, Canadian cities fail to rank.
China and California dominate the list, Canadian cities fail to rank. Source: ICCT

The world’s top 25 electric vehicle cities account for 42% of global EV sales. From charging infrastructure to financial incentives, new research examines what they’re doing right

The blueprint for successful mainstream electric vehicle adoption is hiding in plain sight — in cities with the highest global new passenger electric vehicle sales.

That’s the takeaway from a new policy briefing by the International Council on Clean Transportation which identifies the world’s top 25 “EV capitals” and examines the impact that effective policy strategies have played in driving EV passenger sales in those cities.

“Local governments have often set even bolder goals” …than national governments

ICCT study

Local EV policies key

The top city on the list is Shanghai, where 242,000 EVs were sold through the end of 2018, followed by Beijing (220,000) and Los Angeles (202,000). China leads the pack internationally with 13 cities in the top 25, followed by the United States with five and Norway with two.

Global electric vehicles in 25 electric vehicle capitals as a share of the global electric vehicle stock. Source - ICCT
Global electric vehicles in 25 electric vehicle capitals as a share of the global electric vehicle stock. Source: ICCT

In all, these 25 cities accounted for an amazing 42% of global EV sales.

In revealing important insights, the report stresses that while national government policies get a lot of attention, “local governments have often set even bolder goals and developed unique promotion actions, resulting in significantly higher uptake within specific local markets.”

Carrots and sticks

Cities with the highest rates of EV adoption, the report shows, each provide tax credits of varying levels for purchasers of new EVs. In California, where four cities on the list are located, zero-emission vehicles are granted access to high-occupancy and express lanes; similarly, in Amsterdam, EVs receive priority in obtaining residential parking permits. Several cities also grant electric vehicles free public parking for limited periods or indefinitely (as is the case in San Jose and Paris).

In Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Shenzen, quotas on gasoline vehicles make acquiring a licence for one a lengthy and expensive process. There is no limit, however, to the number of electric vehicles that can be registered, making the purchase of an EV much more attractive.  

China leads in public charging

Several of the world’s top EV cities have also used local building and parking codes to establish robust public charging infrastructure systems.

Shenzen alone (ranked fourth on the list) has 60,000 public charging points — which is more than the amount in the 11 U.S. and European cities on the list combined — and 30% of the city’s parking spots in residential buildings or in public must be equipped with chargers; the remainder must have the electrical wiring necessary to be “EV ready.”

These findings may be especially valuable for Canadian policymakers, as none of the country’s cities appear on the list. The City of Toronto has, however, recently proposed an electric vehicle strategy to prepare for rapidly increasing levels of adoption. It is also worth noting that the ICCT’s findings only take sales through 2018 into account; Canadian EV sales have grown significantly in 2019. In British Columbia, for example, zero-emission vehicles represented 10% of all passenger vehicles sold since May 2019.

ICCT’s list of global EV capitals:

  1. Shanghai
  2. Beijing
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Shenzhen
  5. Hangzhou
  6. Oslo
  7. Tianjin
  8. San Francisco
  9. Guangzhou
  10. San Jose
  11. Qingdao
  12. Tokyo
  13. Zhengzhou
  14. Bergen
  15. New York
  16. Changsha
  17. Paris
  18. Weifang
  19. London
  20. Amsterdam
  21. Nanchang
  22. San Diego
  23. Chongqing
  24. Stockholm
  25. Wuhan