Electric Vehicles Surpass Expectations, Standards Support Future Growth

Businesswoman returning home and charging electric vehicle overnight, as the EV exceeded her expectations.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced automobile sales into stagnation, electric vehicles (EVs) have exceeded sales expectations, comprising 4% of the global market share for passenger vehicles in 2020.

Electric Vehicles Grow, Even During Pandemic

This growth stands out when compared with the status of electric vehicles just a decade ago. Electric-powered automobiles are by no means a 21st Century invention—28 percent of all 4,192 cars produced in the US in 1900 were electric. However, for a century, they were eclipsed by gas-powered automobiles.

In 2010, 17,000 electric cars were on the world’s roads. In 2020, this amount exceeded 10 million. In fact, in the first year of the new decade alone, electric vehicle sales surpassed 3.2 million.

This growth is so substantial that it exceeded already-optimistic expectations. The International Energy Agency (IEA), for example, predicted electric car sales to comprise 3% of the global market share. EVs taking up 4% of all car sales in 2020 shatters the previous record of 2.5% set just the previous year.

This is even more impressive considering that 2020 was not a great year for car sales. In total, sales of new vehicles were down 15% in 2020 when compared with 2019. EVs are clearly moving against this trend.

What’s Driving Electric Vehicle Sales?

A variety of factors has encouraged greater sales of electric vehicles over the past few years. Notably, there’s the technology. EVs emit no noise and no pollution (directly), have cheaper running costs, and feature better acceleration. In the past, these advantages weren’t quite enough to attract consumer attention when stacked up against the extreme costs of EVs, but those costs have since declined, despite still being slightly higher than their conventional counterparts.

2020 saw Europe become the leader in electric vehicle sales, surpassing China. This may be due to the regulatory environment, particularly the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) laboratory test. In fact, some have hypothesized that the surge in EV sales in Europe may have resulted from carmakers pushing sales of low-emission vehicles in an attempt to meet EU emissions targets averaged across their fleets in 2020. Major automobile manufacturers are currently planning on shifting entirely to electric cars in Europe over the next decade.

Electric vehicles charging to AC charging system infrastructure standards in parking garage.

Shifting mentality has also increased interest in electric vehicles. Many consumers desiring to combat climate change choose EVs over their conventional counterparts to limit their carbon footprint. In fact, according to the IEA, electric vehicles reduced oil consumption by almost 600,000 barrels per day in 2019.

With this, many of the initial hurdles with the expansion of electric cars have dwindled into far less insurmountable obstructions. For instance, range anxiety, some consumers’ concern with not having a reachable place to charge an electric car, has become less of an issue with how people actually use their electric vehicles. Many people drive their EV locally and plug it in overnight back home. This, of course, still presents a challenge for those who want to take their EVs on road trips or drive other long distances. In fact, according to a 2020 Deloitte analysis, 50% of UK consumers would consider an EV as their next vehicle purchase, but 33% are concerned with a lack of charging infrastructure when considering the switch to full electric.

Nonetheless, that same analysis, similar to other projections, estimates that electric car sales will make up one-third of the total cars sold worldwide.

The Growth of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Typically, range anxiety originates from a perceived lack of charging stations. Why make the switch to electric if your car will run out of battery before you reach back home? Thankfully, in recent years, electric vehicle charging stations have rapidly emerged throughout the world.

As of February 2021, there are nearly 47,000 electric vehicle charging stations spread throughout the United States and Canada. Most of these in the US, but, if you look at the map of electric vehicle charging station locations provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, you can see distribution gaps in less-populous parts of the country. For comparison, the US has 160,000 gas stations.

In accordance with the continent’s increased EV sales, in 2020, Europe was home to 285,800 public charging stations for electric vehicles, with Germany possessing almost 40,000. Norway also stands out, with around 16,000 charging stations. In fact, the Scandinavian nation has emerged as the world leader in EVs—in early 2021, electric cars rose to a record-breaking 54% market share in Norway.

Green electric vehicle charging stations lined up in mall parking lot in IEC 61851 adherence.

However, when it comes to electric vehicle infrastructure, China is the clear leader. The nation has installed public charging stations at a rapid pace, constructing 10,000 each month in 2020. By mid-2020, China had 566,000 public EV charging stations.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Standards

The commonly used electric vehicle chargers are referred to as level 1 and level 2 chargers, and they provide AC electricity to the automobile via onboard charging. Rising in popularity in recent years, DC fast chargers (also known as level 3 or level 4 chargers) bypass the onboard charger and provide DC electricity to the car’s battery via a special charging port. While DC chargers are rising in popularity, they are still limited when compared to their AC counterparts. For example, in the US and Canada, there are only around 6,000 DC fast chargers.

Essential to the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure are the standards that guide their design and installation. IEC 61851-1 Ed. 3.0 b:2017 – Electric vehicle conductive charging system – Part 1: General requirements covers the characteristics and operating conditions of EV supply equipment. It further details specifications for the connection between the supply equipment and the EV, along with guidelines for electrical safety for the supply equipment. Specifically, it is applicable to supply equipment for charging electric road vehicles with a rated supply voltage up to 1,000 V AC or 1,500 V DC and a rated output voltage up to 1,000 V AC or 1,500 V DC.

Expanding off that guidance, IEC 61851-23 Ed. 1.0 b:2014 – Electric vehicle conductive charging system – Part 23: DC electric vehicle charging station gives guidelines for DC EV charging stations (DC chargers) for conductive connection to electric vehicles.

Standards for Electric Vehicles Fuel Future Growth

Standards focused on electric vehicles and their charging stations aid the growth of the eco-conscious vehicles. Notably, the other standards in the IEC 61851 series support work related to electric vehicle conductive charge systems, and trinational standard CSA C22.2 No. 280-2022 specifies EV supply equipment.

Together, these documents offer necessary guidance to manufacturers, installers, and other professionals, helping pave the expansion of infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations and supporting continued growth.

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