This is an extract from a recent briefing by International Council on Clean Transportation which analyzes the development of the U.S. electric vehicle market in 2020 and the underlying state, city, and utility actions that were driving it.


Despite the unprecedented global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global transition to electric vehicles maintained its momentum in 2020. About 3.1 million new plug-in electric vehicles were sold worldwide in 2020, representing about 4.2% of light-duty vehicle sales and an increase from 2.2 million in 2019. While overall light-duty vehicle sales volumes were down across the industry, the growth of the electric vehicle market persisted and related automaker investments are accelerating. With nearly 330,000 new sales in 2020, the United States is the third largest electric vehicle market, with about one quarter the sales of both China and Europe.

Figure 1 shows the annual electric vehicle sales in the United States from 2010 through 2020. The market has grown from a few thousand vehicles in 2010 to more than 315,000 vehicles sold annually from 2018 to 2020. In 2020, the electric share of new vehicle sales was approximately 2.4% in the United States, an increase from about 2% in 2019. The twelve companies highlighted in Figure 1 together accounted for 98% of the electric vehicles sold in the country. The Tesla Model 3 was the highest-selling model, with about 96,000 new sales in 2020, followed by the Tesla Model Y with 75,000 sales, and the Chevrolet Bolt with approximately 21,000 sales. Other high- selling electric models with between 10,000 and 20,000 sales in 2020 included the Tesla Model X, Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, and Tesla Model S. In 2020, battery- electric vehicles (BEV) made up 78% of sales, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) represented 22%.

Electric vehicle model availability in the United States in 2020 was similar to 2019. The number of electric vehicle models with more than 1,000 sales increased from 29 in 2019 to 31 in 2020. In 2020, there were 59 models available, with at least one sale, and 12 models had more than 4,000 sales. Electric vehicle model availability in Europe and China, where incentives and regulations promoting electric vehicle sales are stronger, was about three to five times higher: Europe and China had 180 and 300 electric vehicle models with at least one sale, and 77 and 63 models that had more than 4,000 sales, respectively, in 2020. The introduction of more electric models across more segments and in greater volumes is critical for electric vehicle market expansion. This is demonstrated by the 2020 introduction of the Tesla Model Y crossover sport utility vehicle, which immediately became the second-highest selling electric model. The more limited availability of other new 2020 PHEV model offerings such as the BMW X3 30e, Toyota RAV4, and Audi Q5 across the country resulted in sales of 2,500 to 4,000 in 2020.

Government policies are critical to reducing consumer barriers related to inadequate electric vehicle model availability, higher upfront costs, range and range anxiety, and lack of awareness and understanding. Despite the uncertainty posed by the Trump Administration’s rollback of U.S. fuel economy standards and the lack of federal leadership on electric vehicles, state and local stakeholders in the electrification transition increased their supporting activities. An increasing number of state and local authorities have announced their vision for all-electric mobility, adopted clean car and zero-emission vehicle regulations, and implemented stronger policies to increase infrastructure investment and electric vehicle market growth.

Infrastructure deployment, supporting policies and EV uptake

Charging infrastructure: Greater and more widespread electric vehicle adoption results in increased needs for charging infrastructure across various locations, including home, workplace, and public. Deploying infrastructure in line with electric vehicle growth is critical to ensure driver convenience and increase confidence and awareness among prospective drivers.

Overall, public DC fast chargers made up about 16% of public chargers in the 50 metropolitan areas, while Level 2 chargers accounted for about 84%. San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, and Oklahoma City had the most DC fast chargers, with 93 to 253 DC fast chargers per million population. The public DC fast charging infrastructure deployment in these areas equates to about 1.6 to 4.5 times the U.S. average public Level 2 charging per capita. Areas with the most public Level 2 charging include San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Kansas City, with 400 to 985 chargers per million population. These areas had about 1.6 to 4 times the U.S. average public Level 2 charging per capita.

In terms of workplace charging, San Jose stands out with more than 1,500 chargers per million population. Other areas with relatively high workplace charging include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Detroit, with 210 to 520 chargers per million population. These levels of workplace charging per capita, excluding San Jose, are 2.5 to 6 times the U.S. average, and 1.5 times the average of the 50 metropolitan areas shown. Overall, about 91% of workplace chargers are Level 2, and the rest are a mix of DC fast and Level 1.

Total public and workplace charging across the 50 metropolitan areas increased by about 30% from 2019 to 2020. This annual growth rate is approximately in line with the estimated charging needed by 2030. Areas with the highest annual growth rates from 2019 to 2020 are Buffalo, Oklahoma City, Providence, and Los Angeles with growth rates of 45% to 90%. This momentum of growth in infrastructure deployment was accompanied by growth in approved utility infrastructure investments, with a three-fold increase in 2020 compared to 2019, which will ensure continued charging infrastructure deployment.

Summary of EV support activities: Most metropolitan areas saw the adoption of several new policy actions in 2020. Seattle had the greatest annual increase in new actions, with five new state and local policy actions, including purchase incentives and a city charging gap analysis, from 2019 to 2020. Los Angeles, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. had two to three additional actions in place compared to 2019. Los Angeles offered increased utility incentives for charging at multifamily properties, Washington, D.C. provided utility incentives for residential and multifamily chargers and increased consumer awareness and education with online tools, and Richmond benefited from new charging and fleet actions at the state level in Virginia.

Cities are increasingly setting targets for electric vehicle adoption and planning accordingly with electric vehicle action plans. Recognizing that electric vehicles and charging infrastructure must grow in unison, seven cities had conducted a charging gap analyses in 2020, quantifying the number, type, and distribution of chargers needed, to guide infrastructure planning. Some cities are taking bolder steps to accelerate the shift to zero-emission mobility. Of the 50 areas, Austin, Los Angeles, and Seattle are signatories to C40’s Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration, pledging to only procure zero-emission buses by 2025 and to ensure a major area of their cities are zero emission by 2030.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many cities took innovative approaches to outreach with virtual events and conducted outreach with an equity focus. San Francisco provided informational sessions about electric vehicles both in English and Spanish. Seattle partnered with local community-based organizations to offer Spanish virtual events about benefits of electric vehicles and fair financing programs for buyers. Minneapolis conducted surveys in languages used by underserved communities and facilitated community engagement to understand, improve, and expand mobility options that the residents need.

Boston released its electric vehicle roadmap in November 2020. Annual electric vehicle fees in California and Virginia went into effect in July and are not included. Baltimore, St. Louis, and Columbus introduced electric buses in late 2020, while Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa received state grants for electric buses procurement, demonstrating increasing momentum toward public buses electrification.

Several cities have adopted quantitative electric vehicle sales goals and strategies to identify near-term actions and plan for market growth. Table 2 shows eleven such areas. Denver, Los Angeles, and Sacramento aim for 15%, 25% and 35%, respectively, of all registered vehicles to be zero emission by 2025. In terms of electric vehicle sales share goals, Boston has a goal of 23% of new vehicle sales to be electric by 2025, New York City of 25% by 2025, Houston of 30% by 2030, and San Francisco of 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2030.

EV uptake: In 2020, electric vehicle uptake across the United States was approximately 2.4%, an increase from 2% in 2019. The 50 most populous metropolitan areas accounted for about 77% of new 2020 electric vehicle registrations, approximately 61% of the total light-duty vehicle market, and 55% of the U.S. population. These 50 areas together had electric vehicle uptake of roughly 3.2%, more than five times the 0.6% uptake in the rest of the country. Estimates of new 2020 electric vehicle sales at the metropolitan area level are based on a variety of sources. Estimated metropolitan area-level electric vehicle data are approximated from 2020 state-level new vehicle registration data from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and 2019 electric vehicle uptake data at the metropolitan area level, with corroboration from other available data sources.

Figure 3 shows the 2020 estimated electric vehicle share of new vehicle sales across the more than 900 metropolitan statistical areas. The 50 most-populous areas are labeled. At the metropolitan level, areas on the West Coast tend to have the highest uptake, with additional hotspots in Colorado, Utah, Hawaii, and the Northeast. San Jose had the highest share at about 21%, followed by the other California areas San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, as well as Seattle and Portland, with uptake ranging from about 4.8% to about 12%. Other areas with above national average uptake include Denver, Boston, Washington, D.C., Boston, Austin, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, and New York City.

Compared to 2019, many states observed growth in sale shares in 2020. New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island had growth from 25% to 32%, reflecting increased sale shares in many of the metropolitan areas. States with 15% to 24% annual growth include Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, and Utah, as well as the District of Columbia. California alone accounted for about 40% of electric vehicle sales in the country, and electric vehicles accounted for more than 8% of new 2020 vehicles in the state. The District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington each had more than 5% electric vehicle sale shares, followed by Massachusetts, Nevada, and Vermont at approximately 3%.


Despite the economic downturn caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s vehicle efficiency regulation rollback, electric vehicle sales and sales shares in the United States remained steady in 2020. This research indicates that, to some extent, states and cities have picked up the slack with continuing support for electric vehicles. The new Biden administration’s rejoining of the Paris Agreement and its goals of decarbonizing the economy by 2050 and for half of new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030 demonstrate renewed federal leadership. But, related to electric vehicles, uncertainties remain with regard to strengthened federal and state regulations, expanded financial incentives, infrastructure investments, and how industry will step up to the challenge of transitioning to electric vehicles.

The complete briefing can be accessed here