Germany launches 3-year, €36M research project into technology for safer Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles
Solar fuels company Joule commissions first plant to demo commercial readiness, launches Joule Fuels subsidiary to advance direct solar-to-fuels platform

Global auto production may hit 80+ million units this year; hybrids below 2% of total output

Worldwide light-duty vehicle production. Source: Worldwatch. Click to enlarge.

Production of light-duty passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011, and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service. Hybrids remain below 2% of total vehicle output.

Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012, writes report author and Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner. The major driver of increased production and sales are the emerging economies, especially China.

The auto industry’s production capacities are far from fully used; PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) estimates current global vehicle assembly capacity at almost 95 million, the report notes. Auto manufacturing capacity continues to grow, and annual output could reach the 100 million mark by 2016.

Rising sales translate into an ever-expanding global vehicle parc. An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world’s roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles—30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—one for every seven people on the planet.

Electric vehicle (EV) production remains at barely perceptible levels, according to the report. Although several countries have issued targets for future EV fleets, it remains to be seen whether these goals can be met.

China, for instance, wants to put 5 million plug-in hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles on its roads by 2020, which could account for more than 40% of the global EV fleet that year. An analysis by Deutsche Bank Climate Advisors, however, suggests that production of 1.1 million EVs and a fleet of 3.5 million in China is a more realistic projection.

Automobiles are major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Greater fuel efficiency, along with the use of cleaner fuels, can help mitigate these impacts, although increases in the numbers of cars and the distances driven threaten to overwhelm fuel economy advances.

—Michael Renner

Fuel efficiency has been improving in all the major car nations over the past decade, with stricter consumption limits for coming years enacted or proposed.

  • Japan and the European Union (EU) continue to be the global leaders.
  • South Korea has improved its fuel economy by one third since 2003.
  • China is considering a limit of 5 l/100 km (47 mpg US) for 2020 that would bring it close to Japan’s 4.5 l/100 km (52.3 mpg US) for 2020.
  • The United US, Canada, and Australia are making progress, but nonetheless continue to lag behind. E.g., the 2025 CAFE/GHG limits in the US would be similar to what Japan already requires for 2015.

Discussions about reducing the environmental impacts of vehicles tend to focus on technical improvements, such as engines, aerodynamic design, and fuels, yet another concern is the distances traveled. Even though the United States has just 25% of the total population of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, in 2008 it alone accounted for just above 40% of the 10.3 trillion passenger-kilometers driven in all OECD member countries. Still, US car travel is down slightly from its peak of 4.3 trillion passenger kilometers (pkm) in 2005, to 4.1 trillion pkm in 2008.

The Chinese are increasingly taking to the roads, with driving distances rising from 262 billion pkm in 1990 to 1.351 trillion pkm in 2009, slightly more than a fivefold expansion.

On a per capita basis, people in OECD countries drive about 8,500 kilometers in private cars annually. People in Canada (14,600 km) and the United States (13,500 km) drive greater distances than people in Europe (an average of just over 11,000 km in the four largest European countries). In Japan, the average driver covers only about 6,400 km, while in China, the average distance per person works out to a much shorter 1,000 km.

Further highlights from the report include:

  • The passenger vehicle fleet in China grew at an annual average rate of 25% during 2000-11, from fewer than 10 million cars to 73 million cars.

  • The top four producers of light vehicles—China, the United States, Japan, and Germany—together account for more than half of global output. China consolidated its lead, manufacturing 17.3 million light vehicles in 2011, with 2012 output projected to reach 18.4 million.

  • Car travel in non-OECD countries doubled between 1975 and 2000, but it then picked up pace by doubling again in just the decade to 2010.



With world economies in the mess they are, I would have expected a dramatic drop in emissions. Don't the data reflect that over the last four years?


The world economy is not in a mess. It is booming and the global annual vehicle production numbers confirms this fact.

However, both USA, Japan and EU27 faces low economic growth currently and probable for some years to come as they owe money to the developing world that now make up for more than half of the global economy. Fossil energy prices are going to rise as a result of this boom in the world economy and that is also needed in order to grow the more sustainable forms of technology such as PV solar, wind power and electric vehicles.


At average Japanese mileages, it is difficult to amortise the extra cost of electric cars.
Of course, for BEVs it is also difficult to drive more than 70 miles in a day, so sales are dependent on people with relatively limited need to go long distances, but high annual mileage.
Hence the comparative popularity of EREVs.


Most manufacturers (with the exception of Toyota) have not yet mass produced electrified vehicles in significant numbers. By 2014/2015, most of them will be on board the electrified vehicle train and numbers will boom.

Meanwhile prices will keep going down and performance will keep going up. Many HEVs are already very competitive. Ford may sell their new 2013/2014 Lincoln HEV at the same price as the ICEV counterpart. By 2015 or so most others will follow.

By 2020 or so, extended range BEVs and City BEVs will be very competitive with the ICEVs counterpart. by 2025 or so they may even be cheaper.

The complete switch from ICEVs to Electrified vehicles will take about 30 years. Post 2030/2035 sales will be mostly electrified vehicles.


Henrik...the Global Economy may not be in a complete mess yet but it is getting very near fast. The accelerated shift of wealth from the 97% to the 3% and the HUGE national debts will bring the downfall of the current system by 2029 (or before) unless drastic corrective measures are taken. Many countries in EU are getting there at a fast pace. USA will soon follow. No country will avoid the final crash. Fortunes will tumble. The all mighty USD will fall to $0.01 or less.

Refuges will be rare. Real states will tumble with the rest for lack of buyers and owners going under their unmanageable debts. Solid Gold may offer some limited safeguard. Basic essential food and energy products may go down a bit less. Non essentials will crash like they did in 1929 and more so. The current unmodified pyramidal economic system is bound to fail.

People living in very isolated areas like Bhutan, above the Arctic Circle and a few other similar places may be better off.



Relax, there are far more people on this planet that get better off each year than those who get worse off. Your talk about 97% getting worse off and the eventual collapse of society is pure nonsense and comparable to the utter nonsense that Karl Marx wrote about in Das Capital.

About your other blog then you tend to think that higher vehicle fuel efficiency is coming all by it selves. It does not. It needs a motivator. It can either be higher oil prices or legislation requiring manufactures to make more efficient vehicles.

Do not expect much to happen with the global sales of hybrids or plug-ins until it is required by legislation or until oil approaches 200USD per barrel.


Figures splitting out petrol vs diesel and cars by region would be interesting.



I'm not the only one to predict a turn for the worse if nothing positive is done to correct the current loop holes. Politicians have their hands tied with $$$$ received for their very expensive election. Do not expect too much from them to correct what has gone wrong. We do not need Karl Marx and company. Just common sense legislation to plug the 1001 loop holes, to reduce current growing wealth disparities and reduce exponential nation debts growth. About 50% of my lifetime savings are invested in private enterprises but I'm seriously thinking about making many strategic changes.

More efficient cleaner electrified vehicles will sell better when purchasing and operating old time ICEVs cost much more and purchasing electrified vehicles cost much less. That could be done with progressive higher liquid fuel price, higher registration fees and higher sales taxes on ICEVs and/or lower or zero or negative sale taxes on electrified vehicles. Not sure that this can be done in an election year, election funds collection obliges....

Meanwhile, the Toyota Prius III is a very good compromise.

Roger Pham

Sorry to inform you otherwise that, NO, economies around the world are not booming like you think. Even in China, many factories are closing due to lack of demand due to economic collapses elsewhere in the world. This is very easy to understand: When jobs are outsourced to the lowest labor cost in the world, workers in the developed world are losing their jobs and can't buy anything, while workers in the developing world are paid too little to buy any foreign imports. As the results, economies will have to collapse when the bubble burst.

>>>"Do not expect much to happen with the global sales of hybrids or plug-ins until it is required by legislation or until oil approaches 200USD per barrel'

The best kept secret is that HEV and PHEV and BEV have much lower overall costs than ICEV. Much lower fuel costs and much lower repair costs and last much longer. As the result, the mfg can charge a HEV or PHEV or even BEV the same price as their comparable ICEV, while putting the price differential on payment plan, over 5-10 years. Because fuel cost and repair cost will be so low, the monthly payment + the fuel cost will still be far lower than the fuel cost of an equivalent ICEV.

When the HEV or PEV's are priced the same as their ICEV counterparts, we will see that the choice for the customer will be obvious. People will all rush out to buy PEV's and HEV's and will forget about ICEV's.


Henrik...I've taken my own advice and have cashed in (with profit) two investments involved in non-essential products. Will cash in two more this week and so on for the next 4+ weeks or so. Will look at opportunities (probably in 2013 or whenever the world economy turns positive) to re-invest in enterprises dealing with basic essential products such as food production, distribution retail, energy production and distribution, prescribed drugs, essential medicare services, very low price retailers etc.

Bob Wallace

"With world economies in the mess they are, I would have expected a dramatic drop in emissions. Don't the data reflect that over the last four years?"

US CO2 emissions peaked in 2005. Since then they have fallen to 1990s levels. 2010 CO2 emissions were 6.6% lower than the 2005 level, approximately the level of 1998. First quarter 2012 was at the first quarter 1992 level.

CO2 levels were going down prior to the economic crash.

GDP increased $1,903.5 million or 15.1%, 2005 to 2010. GDP was higher for every single year following 2005, only dipping a bit in 2009.

Electrical generation increased 72,226 tMWhs or 1.8%, 2005 to 2010.

Oil consumption dropped 1,622 thousand barrels per day or 7.8%, 2005 to 2010. Some of that is due to less flying. Miles driven was down only 0.8% from 2005.

The 6.6% drop in CO2 is likely due to a number of factors. Less coal and more natural gas, an increase in non-hydro renewable generation (now ~4% of our grid supply) and higher fuel efficiency for cars and planes.

Europe (EU27) also seems to have peaked, perhaps as early as 1990, and is falling but at a lower rate than is the US.

Bob Wallace

"Do not expect much to happen with the global sales of hybrids or plug-ins until it is required by legislation or until oil approaches 200USD per barrel."

You missed the important game-changer.

The price of batteries. Get batteries below $200/kW and EV/PHEV sales will likely soar.

Think about it. You go into your preferred brand car dealer to buy a new ride. The buggy you love comes in three versions - fuel, 40 mile range PHEV, or 100+ mile range EV. All the same price, same color, same interior package, just a large operating cost difference.

You going to buy the fuel version and pay 10 cents or more per mile (plus oil changes, etc.) or the PHEV that you can drive your first 40 for 4 cents a mile and as much more as you want for 10 cents a mile or the EV that you can drive for 4 cents a mile?

Most people are going to look at that choice and realize that they could use at least one EV in their household fleet. And those with only one car are going to look at the savings of being able to commute on electricity.


Yes BW... there are many reasons for reduction in CO2 in many industrial countries including USA between 2005 and 2011. Most of the one you mentioned are important and correct.

One major reason you haven't mentioned is the important transfer of production facilities (and associated pollution) from USA to Asia, mainly to China. Didn't we effectively pushed pollution to Asia in order to reduce ours.

By careful with GDP increases because a growing percentage is really due to increased local sales of imported goods from Asia, mainly from China; not due to local production increases. If imported goods were excluded, our GDP would be much lower.


We do not need legislation to spur sales of hybrids or plug-ins.

Let them become desirable on their own.

If we do not want them why should "our own" gov force them on us.

EVs have been “just around the corner” now for over 10 years.

There is a gorilla in the room; “hybrids below 2% of total output”.

And no, it is NOT because; “Most manufacturers except Toyota have not yet mass produced electrified vehicles”.

It is because people are not BUYING them.


Roger and others

The global economy is booming as can be seen from the GDP growth numbers given in CIA factbook (see link below).

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$80.33 trillion (2011 est.)
$77.46 trillion (2010 est.)
$73.65 trillion (2009 est.)
note:data are in 2011 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

GWP (gross world product): $69.99 trillion (2011 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.7% (2011)
5.2% (2010 est.)
-0.8% (2009 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$12,000 (2011 est.)
$11,700 (2010 est.)
$11,300 (2009 est.)
note:data are in 2011 US dollars

Any growth rate above 2% pro anno is considered a boom with falling unemployment. From 0 to 2% it is slow growth with slowly increasing unemployment as new technology enable more production with less people. The annual technological progress is about 2% so the economic growth rate needs to be higher than that in order to create more new jobs than are destroyed by technological advances.


You are right. I did not mention technological advances and they matter especially in the long-term. However, with regard to fuel efficiency I think you will see that changes in oil prices and legislation are what will trigger and guide the technological change. The point is that unless oil prices go much up or legislation will require it technology will be developed to make faster and more convenient cars rather than more fuel efficient cars. Don’t expect cheaper batteries to be developed fast unless there is an urgent need for it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)