The electric vehicle market had a record year in 2023

Global sales of electric vehicles — accounting for both full-electric and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) — rose 31% in 2023 to hit 13.6 million units, according to market research firm Rho Motion. Fully electric vehicles, known also as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), made up 9.5 million units of that total. 

Though the number is a record for the rapidly growing EV industry, it represents a significantly smaller growth rate than the 60% growth that was experienced in 2022, which saw 10.5 million global sales of EVs, up from 6.5 million the year before. 

The 31% growth was about in line with Rho Motion’s expectations for 2023 — the firm is anticipating EV sales growth in 2024 of between 25% and 30%. 

Related: New report highlights a major speedbump to mass electric vehicle adoption

“The pace of growth is slowing, but that’s what’s expected in growing markets like this,” Rho Motion data manager Charles Lester told Reuters. “You can’t double every year.”

A record 1.5 million EVs were sold in December alone, according to Rho Motion. 

In the U.S., EV sales made up 7.6% of total car sales in 2023, up from 5.9% in 2022, according to Kelly Blue Book estimates. Nearly 1.2 million new EVs were purchased in the U.S. last year. 

Cox Automotive expects that share to rise to 10% in 2024, as more incentives, inventory, products and infrastructure combine to give the EV market a significant boost. 

Related: Here’s the full story behind electric vehicle adoption

2023: EV Challenges

Despite its record numbers, 2023 was a harder-than-expected year for EV growth, with electric adoption struggling to shift away from the early adopters and into the masses. 

Polling from S&P Global Mobility earlier in 2023 found that around 67% of people were open to purchasing an EV, down from 86% in 2021. Pricing, range anxiety and charging infrastructure have been identified by numerous polls as the three biggest hurdles to mass EV adoption.

Still, the outlook for the EV industry is one of an inevitable transition — the sales of gas-powered vehicles peaked in 2017 and have been falling since, according to a December report by BloombergNEF. And EV sales are assuredly growing, even if they are growing at a smaller rate. 

Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report alone sold 1.81 million EVs in 2023, an increase over the 1.37 million the company sold in 2022. 

Chinese automaker BYD sold more than 3 million electric vehicles (both BEVs and PHEVs) in 2023, beating out Tesla and other automakers. 

Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

BEV sales increased 50% in the U.S. and Canada in 2023, according to Rho Motion, and grew an additional 27% in Europe and 15% in China, two areas that are already responsible for the bulk of global EV sales

The International Energy Agency expects the world’s electric fleet to number 180 million by 2030, a 22% increase over its previous estimates. 

“Over time, you’re going to see the industry propulsion systems shift to full battery electric,” former Ford CEO Mark Fields said last year. “The issue is, what’s the timeframe for that? There’s a lot of excitement around the early adopters, now you’re getting to the tough part of mass adoption.”

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