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Global production of automobiles keeps rising to new heights. London-based IHS Automotive puts light vehicle production in 2013 at 84.7 million, up from 81.5 million in 2012.

The world’s fleet of light-duty vehicles now surpasses 1 billion – 1 per 7 people, writes senior researcher Michael Renner in the Worldwatch Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online trend.

Five countries account for the production of 60 percent of all light vehicles worldwide. China produced 20.9 million vehicles in 2013. The United States (10.9 million), Japan (9 million), Germany (5.6 million) and South Korea (4.5 million) follow at a considerable distance.

The United States has long been the world leader in motorization. The number of all motor vehicles per 1,000 people there rose to a peak of 844 in 2007. 

There are signs, however, that motorization in the United States may finally have peaked. Almost 1 in 10 U.S. households – 9.2 percent in 2012 – does not have a vehicle, up from 8.9 percent in 2005. In dense cities, the figure is much higher.  According to IHS Automotive, worldwide production of electric vehicles (battery electric and plug-in hybrids) has expanded from 13,866 in 2010 to 242,075 in 2013. The company forecasts production of slightly more than 403,000 vehicles in 2014, up 67 percent from 2013.

Alternative vehicles are slowly making inroads, but they are not yet significantly altering the resource and environmental impacts of automobiles. As electric vehicles become more numerous, a critical issue will be the source of the electricity that they run on-will it be generated from fossil fuels or from renewable energy?

Published in the August 2014 Edition of American Recycler News