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The number of electric cars, buses, vans and heavy trucks on roads is expected to hit 145 million by 2030, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

According to the IEA’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook, if governments ramp up their efforts to meet international energy and climate goals, the global electric vehicle fleet could increase further still, hitting 230 million by the end of the decade. Both of these projections exclude two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles. 

The Paris-based organization said roughly three million new electric cars were registered last year, a record amount and a 41% rise compared to 2019.

This jump pushed the total number of electric cars on the road to over 10 million, a figure supplemented by approximately 1 million electric buses, vans and heavy trucks.

The rise in electric car sales in 2020 came even as the worldwide automobile market contracted by 16% due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, electric car sales were almost two and a half times higher than during the same period in 2020.

“While they can’t do the job alone, electric vehicles have an indispensable role to play in reaching net-zero emissions worldwide,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement.

“Current sales trends are very encouraging, but our shared climate and energy goals call for even faster market uptake,” he added.

Birol urged governments to use Covid economic recovery packages to “invest in battery manufacturing and the development of widespread and reliable charging infrastructure.”

The IEA said consumer spending on electric cars in 2020 totaled $120 billion, a 50% increase compared to 2019, with government support measures designed to encourage electric vehicle take-up coming in at $14 billion.

With regards to the latter figure, the IEA said it was “the fifth year in a row in which they have fallen as a share of total spending.”

“Even if government subsidies remain important for spurring the uptake of electric vehicles, this suggests sales are increasingly being driven more by consumer choice,” it added.

Taking on Tesla

Around the world, authorities are looking to increase the number of low- and zero-emission vehicles on their roads in a bid to tackle air pollution and move away from the internal combustion engine.

The U.K., for example, has announced plans to stop selling new diesel and petrol (gasoline) cars and vans from 2030.

The European Commission’s “Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy,” meanwhile, wants at least 30 million zero-emission cars on the road by 2030.

Faced with these targets, major carmakers are looking to increase their electric vehicle offering and challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla.

Last month, German automotive giant Volkswagen announced plans to establish six “gigafactories” — which the firm says will be able to manufacture battery cells with a combined energy value of 240 gigawatt hours each year — in Europe by the end of the decade. It also pledged to expand its charging infrastructure in Europe, North America and China.

March also saw the Volkswagen Group’s CEO, Herbert Diess, dismiss the notion that his firm could join forces with Tesla, telling CNBC that the German automotive giant was looking to go its own way.

Speaking to “Squawk Box Europe”, Diess was asked if he would rule out any future deal with Musk’s electric car maker, in which VW could manufacture its cars, or if the Tesla and VW brands would ever unite.

“No, we haven’t considered (that), we are going our own way,” he replied. “We want to get close and then overtake.”

“We think that we can – we need our own software stack, our own technology,” he added. “And also, I think Tesla, or Elon, is very much thinking … (about) his way forward. So no, there are no talks between Elon Musk and myself regarding joining forces.”