It is by now accepted worldwide that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of the motor industry. What remains unanswered is when EVs will become the primary means of personal transportation, and whether this change will arrive in time to help halt the level of toxic gases emitted by petrol and diesel vehicles from becoming irreversible. Here’s a quick overview of the progress EVs have made around the world.

Norway

Norway, a country of only 5 million, has the highest level of electric cars per capita in the world, with over 105,000 EVs on the road as of May 2016. In fact, a staggering 24% of its cars are electric…! A number of factors have made Norway go crazy for EVs. Government incentives are the extremely compelling: all-electric cars are exempt from traditional vehicle fees and taxes, which are steep in Norway, making EVs roughly the same price as ordinary cars.

Moreover, Norway’s energy production is almost 100% renewable, resulting in cheap energy and free electricity charging for all EVs. These economic conditions, plus real concern about global warming, has made buying an EV the natural choice for many Norwegians.

Traditional cars are also being penalised: there are plans to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars by 2025, and it has been announced that by 2019 cars will be banned from the centre of Oslo to further reduce pollution.

Germany

Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, also wants to ban the sale of non-electric cars by 2030 as part of its larger aim to curb CO2 emissions by 80-95% by 2050. As of May 2016, Germany has nearly 60,000 EVs, which whilst significant, currently accounts for less than 1% of the 45 million cars on German roads. Ms Merkel, however, plans to put 1 million EVs on the road by 2020.

To do this, the government has announced an ambitious €1 billion programme to subsidise 400,000 EVs and make the electric car “mass market capable”, according to German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel.

The programme includes a €4,000 subsidy per EV and €300 million to spend on upgrading the electric car-charging stations in German cities and on their autobahns.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is also one of Europe’s leaders in adopting electric cars. As of June 2016, the Netherlands has over 94,500 EVs registered in the country and is on course to hit its target of 200,000 electric vehicles by 2020. Only time will tell whether it can meet its goal of 1 million units by 2025.

Like Norway and Germany, the Dutch are also planning to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, recently outlined by the Dutch Labour Party. Yet whilst Norway and Germany’s plans are currently in the ideas stage, the Dutch proposals have passed through its Parliament’s lower house and are now “likely to become law.”

US

When you think of electric cars, for many people the American company Tesla is the first thing to come to mind. As of June 2016, the United States boasts around 474,000 EVs since the launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, amounting to nearly a third of the entire global stock of electric vehicles, with the Tesla Model S ranking as the second best-selling EV in the world after the Nissan Leaf.

California alone, home to Tesla, has over 200,000 EVs, totalling more electric cars than the Midwest, Northeast and South areas of the US combined. Zero-emission vehicle mandates have been in place for decades.

To encourage electric car use outside of California, the Obama administration is planning to invest up to $4.5 billion in electric car infrastructure, including the creation of a coast-to-coast network of electric car-charging stations. However, with 253 million cars and trucks on US roads as of 2014, the electric car market has a long way to go before it can make a dent in sales of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles.

China

Last year, China became the largest market for EVs in the world, surpassing the US, and expects sales to reach 700,000 by the end of the year, increasing to 3 million a year by 2025. To achieve this, the government is considering following the California model and imposing mandates, requiring carmakers to produce or import more EVs to meet CO2 emission reduction targets.

Reducing emissions by encouraging EV usage is an important target for China. At the beginning of 2016, more than 80% of the country’s underground water was deemed unsafe to drink because of pollution, according to a government report. Air pollution is also costly: China loses out on around 6.5% of its GDP on account of pollution-related costs such as low productivity and closing factories shut down on bad air days.

UK

So, how does the UK compare to all these? Well, the results are mixed. Approximately 80,000 EVs are registered in the UK up to June 2016, boosted by the government’s Plug-in Car Grant which provides a 25% grant towards the cost of new EVs, capped at £4,500.

London is currently the only area of the UK which is predicted to fall short of compliance on pollution levels by 2025, and polluting vehicles are now responsible for approximately 9,400 premature deaths every year in the capital alone. The recent Brexit vote has also sparked fears that the government may relax on hitting pollution targets as it may no longer risks tough EU fines.

However, the good news is that London’s new mayor, Sadiq Kahn, has announced ambitious plans to extend the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to the North and South Circulars from 2020 and impose a £10 ‘T charge’ on all petrol and diesel vehicles registered before 2005, on top of the congestion charge. All EVs and eligible hybrids are exempt from the congestion charge and there are plans for an expansion in electric car-charging infrastructure. Just this week air quality alerts have been introduced at tube stations, bus stops and road sides across London, notifying the public if pollution levels are high.

The future

Despite their rapid growth, EVs represented just 0.1% of the one billion cars on the world’s roads by the end of 2015. However, many are optimistic about the future as more and more countries follow Norway’s suit and adopt progressive policies towards electric cars. The shift to EVs is universally acknowledged as essential in meeting the global environmental challenges we face today; the question isn’t if we go electric, but when.

So next time you’re planning a car journey, why not make it electric?