Global Sustainability Series: How Well is the World Transitioning to EVs?

Gretchen ReeseAugust 5, 2021

Sustainability isn’t just about who can electrify first. It’s not about who can decarbonize their electric grid the fastest. Heck, it’s not even about alternative fuels. What it is about, is prolonging the longevity of your organization from the ground up – and for some that may be through electrification, green energy, alternative fuels and resource conservation. For others it may be by simply making their ICE vehicles more sustainable. Simple as that. 

A lot of the progress that has been made in this sustainability movement has really started to rev up in Europe. The Netherlands, Norway – specifically in cities like Oslo, Amsterdam, London in the UK  and even eastern Asia. These are the places where sustainability initiatives are currently being piloted, and once demonstrated to be successful – have other cities and countries closely following suit.

Global Sustainability Series: How Well is the World Transitioning to EVs? | Fleet FYIs Podcast, Season 2 Episode 18

Gretchen Reese (00:00):

Hey there. Welcome to Fleet FYIs, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen, and every week you’ll hear from me and some of the industry’s finest in candid conversations that will shed some light on not only two decades worth of data insights, but some of the industry’s hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle.

Gretchen Reese (00:33):

But before we begin, if this is the first time you’ve heard our show, thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us, but I’ve got a quick favor to ask you. Once you’ve finished today’s episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars I hope, or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you’ve heard in today’s episode. But if we haven’t yet covered a topic that you’re interested in hearing more about, let us know. We would be happy to go over it in detail in a later episode. If that sounds good to you, let’s get back to the show.

Gretchen Reese (01:16):

Hey there, and welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. It always feels great to be behind the microphone, especially after a long week of rabbit hole researching and delving into new facets and seasoned topics on this show. And I got to say, recording this show is probably my favorite time of the week, because it’s just, it’s so fun. I mean, if you know me, whether we’ve connected on LinkedIn or you know me through I’m Utilimarc or even we’ve been connected through Fleet FYIs, you’ll know that I’m a habitual researcher. So anytime I get to delve into a topic, it’s really good fun.

Gretchen Reese (01:54):

So if you’ve listened to this show before, and, you know, even if you haven’t, I think you’ll know where I’m probably headed for this episode. If you glanced at the title, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess. And it actually, this topic stemmed from a conversation that I recently had with the senior manager of fleet electrification at Geotab, Charlotte Argue, and we were talking about all of the different ways that fleets can be more sustainable and efficient, which you’ll want to make sure you stay tuned for that episode. More on that in the next couple of weeks. Uh, but we had a really nice long chat surrounding EVs and the state of the EV market, as well as the adoptive mindset that many people have, as well as you know, because we need to cover the other side of this movement as well, some of the concerns and some of the challenges that people are finding when either they’re interested in pursuing electrification, or even if they’re not, you know, what challenges are they facing when you have different people in their organizations, trying to pursue a commitment along those lines.

Gretchen Reese (02:54):

And, you know, there will always be so many questions surrounding EVs. You know, where I begin, can I begin? How do I manage an EV fleet? Will there be enough infrastructure in place to run this effectively, so on and so forth. But I think what we have to keep in mind is that EVs, you know, whilst they’re a great facet of sustainability or at least they have the potential to be, they’re not for everyone. And the thing is when we’re speaking about sustainability, it’s not just EVs that we’re referring to. It’s so much more than that.

Gretchen Reese (03:25):

So we’re talking about, at least if I’m mentioning sustainability, it’s fuel reduction, waste reduction, cutting idle time, optimal route planning, EVs, and even more. And that’s truly what sustainability is all about. In fact, at its core, it’s all about future proofing your fleet and streamlining your operations. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the core of what we do at Utilimarc too.

Gretchen Reese (03:50):

But let’s get back to the topic at hand, electric vehicles. The world is transitioning to EVs at a rate that is so rapid it’s almost hard to wrap your head around it. And you guys know me, I love looking for trends, especially when they come from an international stage. So in this case, and for this episode, we’re looking at trends from the UK, Europe, Eastern Asia and massive metropolitan cities that are miles ahead, excuse the bad pun, of the US in terms of electrification and sustainable innovation.

Gretchen Reese (04:20):

For those of you that didn’t know, I’ve lived in London a couple of times in recent years. And it was amazing to see all of the sustainability initiatives beginning in such a global city. And this was about two years ago, right. You know, most of us haven’t been traveling for the extensive time that has been the global pandemic. And I think we’re up to about a year and a half now, but still a lot of changes can happen in the EV market in one to two years. And all I mean from this is that it’s good to have a holistic worldview, especially as many sustainability trends tend to originate in Eastern Asia, in Europe and in the UK. And it’s not just limited to there though. I should point that out.

Gretchen Reese (05:00):

You know, some people may say that we should only focus on what’s happening in the US when it comes to sustainability. But honestly, if I may be so bold to say this, I think that’s a bit near-sighted. Um, you know, sustainability, isn’t just about who can electrify first, not at all. It’s not about who can decarbonize their electric grid, the fastest. You know, it’s not even about alternative fuels, truly. What it’s about, at least what I think it’s about is prolonging the longevity of your organization from the ground up. And for some that may be through electrification. For some, it may be through green energy, alternative fuels and resource conservation, but for others, it may simply be making their internal combustion engine vehicles more sustainable, simple as that.

Gretchen Reese (05:44):

A lot of the progress that has been made in this industry, um, sustainability movement has really started to rev up in Europe, at least that I’ve noticed. So we’re talking about the Netherlands, Norway specifically in cities like Oslo, Amsterdam, London, over in the UK, because it’s no longer part of Europe. And then even when we start to look at Eastern Asia, cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, so on and so forth, even Seoul and Tokyo. These are places where sustainability initiatives are currently being piloted. Um, and ones demonstrated to be suc-, successful, have other cities and other countries actually closely following suit. Norway is certainly one to watch in this case. And on that same note, so is Amsterdam.

Gretchen Reese (06:22):

But it’s fair to say that there’s still a certain amount of hesitation when it comes to creating and maintaining policies that are not only sustainable for the environment, but sustainable for companies and organizations to keep up in the long run. Some of the big questions are how many emissions have been reduced in the past decade, how long until there are as many EVs bought and sold as internal combustion engines and how long until the US is keeping up with global sustainability targets. That’s going to be what I’m trying to aim to answer today. Though, fair warning, it may take a couple of episodes to do it.

Gretchen Reese (06:54):

Just so you know, this is the kickoff of a solo sustainability series, which I hope that you’re really going to enjoy. But because this is such a multifaceted topic, there certainly needs to be a lot more than a 20 minute podcast to try and answer every single question. So without further ado, I think that we should start to get into this episode and kick off this series because I, for one, am interested to hear what you all think, but I also have a feeling that you’re going to like it, because I think this is going to be a topic or at least a plethora of topics that is certainly going to invite conversation.

Gretchen Reese (07:27):


Gretchen Reese (07:40):

Let’s talk about the EV market. I think this is a space that has changed so rapidly in such a short amount of time that, in truth, it’s almost getting difficult to predict what’s next. You know, we’ll always be able to, because, you know, peop-, there’s clearly scientists and manufacturers working on it. But if we look at this from, you know, a big picture perspective, previously, a long span of time for market evolution may have been about five or 10 years, but now it’s such a rapidly changing industry that that time length is shortened to one or two years. And you know, this is especially true when you have so many countries all over the world implementing different strategies and initiatives to encourage consumers and government fleets to go green and manufacturers to try and shift over to all EV or all hybrid production.

Gretchen Reese (08:24):

Take a look at countries that are implementing purchase bands on fully internal combustion engines by 2030, or even 2025. I mean, that’s coming up so soon. That’s not even five years until that second benchmark. But my question is, has the US actually been successful in their implementation? If you really think about it, have we been successful with our implementation. Now, granted, that also is looking at what metrics that you would consider to create a successful implementation, but overall big picture here, I think that’s where we need to dig into the data a little bit to actually be able to answer that question.

Gretchen Reese (09:02):

So if we break it down from a numbers perspective, let’s take a look at the total number of EVs that have been sold and registered to date. That may be, you know, a starting point for this conversation. In 2020, there was a surge of EV sales, even though the pandemic was wreaking havoc on everyone’s schedules, supply chains, and you know, so much more. I mean, we all know. We lived through it (laugh) and this last year saw the total number of EV units, actually worldwide, increase to nearly 10 million, which is an increase of 41% from 2019. So that means it’s a promising trend, primarily because it shows the percentage of change per year is increasing and the momentum of the EV movement is growing. And actually the rate of EV purchases and usage, as well as the full-scale move to widespread sustainability, which includes internal combustion engines will need to continue to grow in order to reach 2050 emissions goals.

Gretchen Reese (09:56):

Now, let’s break this down a little bit further and pivot to speaking about solely the EV sales in 2020. Europe, and when I say Europe, I’m referring to the whole continent, sold the most EVs with 1.4 million EV registrations. This may be due to a successful incentivization of electric vehicles, as well as, um, some of the looming bands on internal combustion engine sales that the UK and other nations have planned for 2030 and some as early as 2025. And although the UK is not part of Europe and I’m not counting their numbers in that 1.4 million statistic, it’s still interesting to see how you still have the block and the UK working together on different initiatives in that sense.

Gretchen Reese (10:37):

China was a close second with 1.2 million electric vehicles registered. The United States and Germany, both registered 295,000. The UK alone registered 175,000. Latin America has about 11,000 EVs total with 31% of those concentrated in Colombia, and electric vehicles still actually remained quite rare in Africa. And again, referring to the whole continent here, as there’s only about 1000 EVs on the road today, and most of those are actually centered in South Africa.

Gretchen Reese (11:09):

I know I’m throwing a lot of numbers at you, but they can actually carry so much weight, because the general trend is a substantial increase and it’s growing year by year in the total number of EVs on the road. And if we were to take a look at the best track record, purely based on the number of units sold, China is for sure the front runner for embracing electric vehicles. But actually, if we look at it in a different way, Norway won the field in EVs per capital with one for every 18 people. The United States came in second with one for every 50 people followed by Iceland and Sweden and the Netherlands.

Gretchen Reese (11:43):

But I will say that it’s a bit disconcerting that the US is falling behind in terms of production and total sales, even though there are a ton of EVs per capita on the road. Now, I’m sure if you went out for a walk, especially if you lived in the city or even out for a drive, you’d probably see at least one or two or perhaps a lot more than that. But I think just in general, if we’re looking at the US, we do have a cultural love of traditional internal combustion engines. I mean, who do you know that has their favorite pickup truck or their favorite SUV or their fancy little sports car that they can zip around in, or you know, we actually even just have a perceived dependence on oil too, if you think about it. Because if you check it’s more than you think. It’s in more than just the fuel you’d consume, because surprisingly it’s actually in a lot of fabrics and, you know, even Tupperwares and that sort of thing, but we’re not talking about that. This is a fleet podcast.

Gretchen Reese (12:35):

But you know, the good news is that by 2030, EVs are likely to make up 20% of the vehicles in the USA. And I don’t know about you, but seeing more, hearing more, learning more about electric vehicles on the roads, it makes me feel really helpful. It almost seems like an admission free future is inching a little bit closer to reality, especially when EVs are such a huge facet of sustainability as a whole. Because remember, like we said, sustainability is not just about EVs, although they do play a really big part. And I will say, if it helps preserve the environment too, I’m here for it. I think we can all do our part to be a little bit more sustainable, even if it’s just reducing the fuel we use, but more on that in a later episode.

Gretchen Reese (13:20):


Gretchen Reese (13:33):

Now, let me ask you a question. Can you guess how any tons of greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere last year? And no cheating and looking it up on your phone. The world emits about 43 billion tons of CO2 per year. Billion with a B. Yes, you heard me, right. I know, ugh, per year. In July of 2021 alone, it’s actually estimated that we’ve already admitted 1.4 billion tons, which yikes. You’d think though with all of the EVs entering the market, that we still would have seen a decrease in emissions, at least I would think so. It actually seems more like common sense that with more EVs and less internal combustion engines, that it might be enough to at least make a dent in that 43 billion number. Unfortunately though, that’s not the case. And I think part of that is because there’s just not as high of a percentage of EVs on the road and, you know, being produced, being used every day to truly make that large of a dent.

Gretchen Reese (14:27):

But also on the flip side, global emissions are increasing every year. However, it’s important to note that emissions aren’t only caused by driving a petrol powered vehicle every day, even though transportation is one of the sectors that, you know, produces the most carbon emissions, the most pollution, and I will say sadly, and I will say, as a fashion lover, that the fashion industry is not far behind. And one thing to note is that emissions have been increasing steadily every single year since the 1800s. I mean, industrial revolution, that was kind of the kicking point there. And there was a point actually though between 2014 and 2016, when the amount of emissions didn’t have a significant change reported. And a lot of people were hopeful that meant that the next few years might signal a reduction in CO2 emissions that we’ve been outputting. However, since 2016, it’s increased every year since, so wah, wah. A little bit of a sad thing there.

Gretchen Reese (15:23):

But here’s, here’s the thing. It’s actually not discouraging news, even though when you hear it’s increased every single year since 2016, that, you know, that’s not a great thing. But, you know, whilst it’s true that EVs haven’t drastically and dramatically impacted our missions yet, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t laying the groundwork. With the increase of units globally over time, emissions are surely going to be impacted, having a positive effect and hopefully a reduction or at least a consistency. If you look at the next five years, you know, as long as we’re not growing, if we’re staying the same, that still could mean that we’re hitting our climate targets. But still, you know, there’s challenges with this initiative as there is with any new technology, any new innovation. I mean, we know the drill.

Gretchen Reese (16:06):

Transitioning to EVs promises to reduce emissions. That’s been one of the biggest focuses, one of the biggest comments, one of the biggest, you know, everything, right, about this whole electric vehicle movement, and even though producing the EVs themselves and the electricity that powers them, that still creates emissions too, because it’s from a coal power grid. It’s clear though, that whilst making this switch is a good thing, we still have to make wider, ranging changes to many different industries in order to make this movement a success.

Gretchen Reese (16:38):

And a crucial aspect of this transition to clean energy is this, we can’t force it too quickly. I’m going to say that again, just for a little bit of emphasis. We can not force this transition too quickly. Do we want to hit climate targets right away? Absolutely. But we can’t force the transition too quickly, especially if we’re also transitioning our electric grid to green and renewable energy sources at the same time. Too much of a change, I read an article on this the other day, and it was actually a fascinating read because though I am one absolutely for sustainability, sustainable technology and green energy, it was talking about how too much of a change too quickly could potentially cause shortages and unreliability. I’ll save that for another episode. Don’t you worry.

Gretchen Reese (17:20):

But just in short, if we think about how much we actually use energy every single day, and then you switch a coal-powered grid to a green energy grid, and then you add electric vehicles, whether it’s widespread or, you know, just concentrated in metropolitan areas like bigger cities, that’s a lot of stress to add to a grid, especially if you’re trying to eliminate the use of coal to power your electricity. And it’s kind of like, um, I forgot who told me this, but it was interesting, you know, wind farms don’t produce energy if there’s no wind, right? Because there’s nothing to turn them. So how are you going to be able to account for non windy days or if it’s a hydro power plant, you know, if the tide is low or if it’s solar power on a cloudy day. Did anyone else just seeing that part of My Girl, um, like I just did? Uh, don’t worry. I did it in my head. I’m not actually going to sing it on the episode. But basically what I’m trying to say here is that EVs can’t save the planet on their own, but they’re a good start, you know, and we’ve got to start somewhere.

Gretchen Reese (18:18):


Gretchen Reese (18:32):

So with the sale of electric vehicles making up 4.6% of vehicles sales globally in 2020, it’s no surprise that governments everywhere want to keep this momentum going strong. Over the last decade there’s been a flood of policies supporting electric vehicles. Last year in particular, economic stimulus, accelerated and encouraged a tremendous amount of growth in the EV market, especially in the US. But prior to the pandemic, many European countries, shifting our focus to the other side of the Atlantic here, were already in the process of developing the strategies to strengthen fiscal initiatives to buy electric vehicles, as well as making restrictions on CO2 emissions harsher, notably, Germany, France, and Italy, too.

Gretchen Reese (19:14):

And through that perfect storm, the electric vehicle sales in Europe were 55% higher in 2020 compared to the year prior, which is huge. I mean, that’s pretty fantastic if you think about it. The US, as well, has many different incentives on the state and federal levels. The biggest probably being the Qualified Plug-in Electric Vehicle Tax Credit, which went into effect in 2009 and allows EVs a tax credit up to $7,500, depending on their battery. The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit actually can also take care of 30% of the cost of a new charging station. So, you know, there’s incentives here too. It’s not just Europe that’s making that change.

Gretchen Reese (19:54):

And, but the thing that I really want to point out is that EVs around the world are reaching the point of popularity that makes real change seem like it’s just on the horizon. There’s no real telling how well the EVs might benefit the reduction of emissions until we see more on the road. Like I said, you know, there’s just not that high of a number to be able to make a huge dent on CO2 emissions that we’re putting out, but, you know, in the coming years that may change. But I think they’ll definitely play a part in ending tailpipe emissions. However, you know, the amount of industrial pollution in the world far exceeds the amount of emissions caused by transportation. At the very least, making the switch to electric vehicles could save you a little bit of money and also reduces our worldwide dependency on oil. And that certainly is a notable start. And, you know, an interesting way to think about the movement as a whole.

Gretchen Reese (20:45):

But to wrap this episode up, you know how I feel about EVs and the exciting future that they represent for the fleet industry and also for consumers, for that matter as well. But I’d love to hear from you. Whilst you are listening to di-, to today’s show, if you heard something that interested you, that you want to know more about, or if you have your own thoughts on the state of EVs around the world, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email. My contact information as always is in the description of this episode, or you can get in touch with me on LinkedIn by using the hashtag Utilimarc Fleet FYIs. I love hearing all of your opinions. I think they’re fascinating, and I love being able to engage with you guys too, because that’s the huge part of this podcast, right? You know, we want to be able to start conversations and also be able to continue them off the show.

Gretchen Reese (21:31):

I’d also actually, on that note, love to hear your opinions on how you think the EV movement’s going and where this road leads, because I think this’ll be an interesting initiative to follow. And especially as we start to explore this topic more later on in this series, we’ll be able to delve into every single facet that not only the EV movement represents, but then also sustainability as a whole. Because if you remember, full circle here, sustainability is a multifaceted term and EVs do not represent all of it, just a huge part. So until next time, that is all from me. I will see you in your headphones next Thursday, ciao.

Gretchen Reese (22:08):


Gretchen Reese (22:11):

Hey there, I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five, because you’ve just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. If you’re already wanting more content, head over to, which is Utilimarc with a C, for the show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analyst to you. That’s all from me this week, so until next time I’ll catch you later. (music)

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Gretchen Reese

Growth Marketing Manager

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