Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Could three quarters of all light vehicles be zero emissions by mid-century?

Graphic showing the increasing proportion of zero emissions likely to be on roads worldwide by 2050

The number of zero emission vehicles on our roads will increase dramatically in the coming years. Major markets are planning bans on new internal combustion engine powered vehicles over the coming three decades. The majority are clustered around 2030-2040, some as late as 2050, others are still holding out.

This doesn’t mean petrol and diesel cars will vanish from our streets overnight. The average life expectancy for a car is about a dozen years, and it can take two decades for a year’s sales to find its way into scrapyards and recycling. The later the ban is enacted, the longer the tail of oil powered vehicles on our streets.

Change is happening, and more zero-emission vehicles are coming to market. Sales are growing steadily from a low base, accounting for roughly 10% of worldwide sales in 2022, and expected to grow to about half by 2035. Even with such a high proportion of sales, zero-emission vehicles will only account for a quarter of cars and light vans still operating.


If the share of new zero-emission vehicles continues to grow, by 2040 that percentage could double. By mid-century it could reach three quarters as increasing numbers of ICEs reach the end of their life, or they become prohibitively expensive to own.

Whether this is quick enough to limit the harm the petrol and diesel vehicles left on our streets is something only time will tell.

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My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.