Hybrids surge with sales almost doubling; electric vehicle sales continue to rise

Published: 13 Aug 2021

Nine out of 10 new taxis and commercial passenger vehicles purchased in Australia last year were electric or hybrid, as the trend towards greener vehicles grows, according to the latest report from the National Transport Commission on carbon dioxide emissions intensity for new light vehicle sales.

The report released today shows sales of hybrid vehicles almost doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, with 58,595 hybrid vehicles sold last year. Electric vehicles are continuing to rise in popularity, with 6,900 battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles sold in 2020—a 17 per cent increase.
NTC spokesperson, Mandi Mees, said almost all governments purchased at least 10 per cent of their fleet as either electric or hybrid vehicles in 2020.
‘With increasing makes and models of greener vehicles available, governments, businesses and consumers can reduce emissions with their purchases. Our analysis shows that if people who bought new vehicles in 2020 had chosen the best-in-class for emissions performance, Australia’s average carbon emissions intensity would have dropped by 93 per cent for new passenger cars and light SUVs, and by 50 per cent for new heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles.’
Despite the growth in electric vehicles in the past two years, they still only represent an estimated 0.12 per cent of the nation’s 18.1 million cars and light commercial vehicles.
Australians’ consumer preferences over the last decade have continued to shift towards heavier vehicles with larger and more powerful engines, the analysis has found. This is occurring at the same time as European and Asian markets trend towards smaller vehicles with lower emissions.
The report highlights that less than half of Australian new passenger car sales had an emissions intensity of 160 g/km or less, whereas more than 90 per cent of new European passenger car registrations were below 160 g/km.
‘As manufacturers continue to produce new and improved models of hybrid and electric vehicles, there is a clear trend in growth. We hope this report helps inform governments, fleet managers and consumers to be conscious of the collective impacts on CO2 levels of our buying choices,’ Ms Mees said.
Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Green vehicles were 8.4 per cent of total vehicle sales in 2020, up from 5.7 per cent in 2019. A ‘green’ vehicle is defined in the report as a vehicle with emissions intensity that does not exceed 120 g/km.
  • Data from the FCAI’s voluntary emissions standard shows that the 2020 average emissions intensity for passenger cars and light SUVs was 149.5 g/km. By contrast, the average emissions intensity of heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles was 216.7 g/km.
  • In 2020 there were 47 makes of new vehicles sold to Australian consumers in the passenger cars and light SUVs category (denoted as MA in the report) and 27 in the heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles category (MC+NA category). 23 of the 27 heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles category makes also appear in the passenger cars and light SUVs category.
  • The average emissions intensity for passenger cars and light SUVs was lowest for government car fleets (134 g/km), followed by private buyers (155 g/km) and business buyers (158 g/km). For heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles, the emissions intensity was relatively similar for all buyer types, with private buyers having the lowest (216 g/km) and business buyers having the highest (220 g/km).
  • Diesel engines produced the highest emissions by powertrain and fuel type in both categories though it was by a more significant margin in the passenger cars and light SUVs category.

The NTC has relied on the FCAI’s new car sales data since 2009 for this annual report, and a shift by industry to incorporate ‘super credits’ into its data has caused a break in the NTC’s established methodology. The 2020 report draws on both sales data from industry, registration data from states and territories and international data to give the most accurate picture possible from the data available.
To read the full report visit the NTC website.
For advice on buying your next car, visit the Green Vehicle Guide website.

Media contact: Alice McKinnon, Head of Communications,, 03 9236 5053