What cars will we be driving in 2050?

By 2050, there will be about 3 billion light-duty vehicles on the road worldwide, up from 1 billion now. At least half of them will be powered by internal combustion engines (ICE), using petroleum-based fuels. As our new interactive model shows, we need a variety of transportation solutions to end our dependence on oil.

Take our model for a test drive to explore what the global fleet will look like in 2050. We included three scenarios for electric vehicle (EV) sales, based on the assumptions of top experts. Click on each button to see those results. For more information, refer to the FAQ section below.


Goldman Sachs
The Bloomberg New Energy Finance group uses information from Bloomberg’s 15,000 employees across 192 locations around the world to provide data and analysis on issues related to the world’s rapidly changing energy system. Bloomberg assumes that, due to decreased battery production costs, EV sales will reach 41 million units per year by 2040. NOTE: Bloomberg’s model only projects to 2040. Growth percentages in subsequent years were estimated by Fuel Freedom, based on trends in other models.
The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s growth scenario is not a projection, but rather a highly optimistic roadmap the IEA hopes the world will follow. This scenario assumes government incentives for EVs will continue through 2020. It also foresees that fast charging or battery-swapping technology will proliferate by 2030 and it predicts that by 2040, new batteries that “significantly outperform” lithium ion batteries at similar costs will be available.
Goldman Sachs is one of the premier global investment management firms providing analysis on a wide variety of topics to aid their investors. In its “Low Carbon Economy Report,” they attribute high rates of initial EV growth to friendly government incentives and regulations, as well as decreased production costs.
Years EV Sales Annual Growth Rate EVs Added (Millions)
2016 – 2020
2021 – 2025
2026 – 2030
2031 – 2035
2036 – 2040
2041 – 2045
2046 – 2050

Vehicles on the Road Worldwide

AFVs (Alternative Fuel Vehicles): Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles, Natural Gas Vehicles, and Propane Autogas Vehicles.

EVs (Electric Vehicles): Battery (all-electric) and Plug-in Hybrid (electric and ICE drivetrains) EVs.

ICE Vehicles (Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles): Gasoline ICE, Diesel ICE, Flex-Fuel ICE, and Hybrid ICE.

Questions? We’ve got answers.

Q: How does this graph work?

A: The graph is a stacked area graph where each type of vehicle makes up a portion of the total vehicles on the road. Even though AFVs are on the top, they only make up a small portion of the nearly 3 billion vehicles that are projected to be on the road in 2050. It doesn’t matter where in the stacked graph they are. The rest of the 3 billion vehicles on the road are made up of either EVs or ICE vehicles, whose numbers will fluctuate based on what growth rates you assume!

Q: All three of the listed EV growth rate models (IEA, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs) show sales going up quickly, then decreasing. Why would that be?

A: In early years of the adoption of any disruptive technology, growth rates are likely to be high. For example, in 2010, the first year mainstream EVs went on sale, 7,000 were sold. Then in 2011, 45,000 were sold. That’s a growth rate of 543%, even though 38,000 EVs is only a drop in the bucket of a larger car market that sells tens of millions of vehicles each year. As more vehicles come online each year, achieving huge growth rate increases becomes more difficult. What’s more, as more EVs are sold and the technology becomes more diffused into the mainstream, there will be fewer new customers, meaning less demand. It’s an effect known as market saturation.

Q: Why can I not increase the growth rate above 100%?

A: You can, just not on the web version of the Tool. If you’d like to alter the growth rate beyond 100% or into negative territory, we encourage you to download the full version of the Tool, available at the bottom of this page or by clicking here.

Q: I read that Tesla has received nearly 400,000 preorders for its forthcoming Model 3 vehicle. How does that fact change your predictions?

A: It doesn’t, because the different scenarios presented account for high EV growth in 2018 (the year when those Model 3s are set to come online). For example, IEA predicts 2.5 million EVs being sold in 2018, Bloomberg predicts 900,000, and Goldman Sachs predicts 1.4 million. However, if you believe those predictions don’t fully account for Tesla’s recent orders, you can add in those extra sales by increasing the growth rate in the 2016-2020 period on your own.


Q: I keep increasing the growth rate in later years, but the graph is staying the same. Why is that?

A: When this occurs it means that in earlier years you inputted a growth rate high enough to make EV sales 100 percent of new vehicle sales. Since more EVs can’t be sold than total vehicles, once EV sales reach 100 percent of new vehicle sales, changing the growth percentage in later years won’t alter the chart.

Q: How do I alter variables other than just the EV growth rate?

A: You can alter the Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) sales growth rate, as well as the overall fleet growth rate, if you download the full version of the Tool, as well as the white paper, at the bottom of the page or by clicking here.


Q: What were your assumptions and methodology in building the Tool?

A: For a full description of our assumptions and methodology, you can download the white paper, along with the Tool itself, at the bottom of the page or by clicking here.

Still have questions or feedback? Please send them to [email protected]

Want more?

For those who want more information on this project, there are two resources available:

1. The full version of the Tool, or rather the engine under the hood. The Tool is a macro-enabled Excel file that allows the user to manipulate not just EV growth rates but also total LDV growth rates and AFV growth rates.

2. A white paper that explains the scope and methodology of the project; investigates multiple projected scenarios and discusses the ramifications of our findings.

Download the Tool and White Paper