Motor vehicle

Motor vehicle
The United States has the world's largest motor vehicle registered fleet, with almost 250 million vehicles.

A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For legal purposes motor vehicles are often identified within a number of vehicle classes including automobiles or cars, buses, motorcycles, motorized bicycles, off highway vehicles, light trucks or light duty trucks, and trucks or lorries. These classifications vary according to the legal codes of each country. ISO 3833:1977 is the standard for road vehicles types, terms and definitions.[1]

As of 2010 there were more than one billion motor vehicles in use in the world excluding off-road vehicles and heavy construction equipment.[2][3][4] Global vehicle ownership per capita in 2010 was 148 vehicles in operation per 1000 people.[4] The United States has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 239.8 million by 2010. Vehicle ownership per capita in the U.S. is also the highest in the world with 769 vehicles in operation per 1000 people.[4] The People's Republic of China has the second largest fleet in the world, with slightly more than 78 million vehicles and since 2009 became the world's largest new car market.[3][4][5]


Ownership trends

The U.S. publisher Ward's, estimate that as of 2010 there were 1.015 billion motor vehicles in use in the world. This figure represents the number of cars; light, medium and heavy duty trucks; and buses, but does not include off-road vehicles or heavy construction equipment. They state that the world vehicle population passed the 500 million-unit mark in 1986, and 250 million motor vehicles in 1970. Between 1970 and 1950, the vehicle population doubled roughly every 10 years.[2][3][4] Two U.S. researchers estimate that the world's fleet will reach 2 billion motor vehicles by 2020, with cars representing at leas 50% of all vehicles. China’s and India’s automobile fleets are expected to grow at an annual rate of around 7 or 8%, while the slowest growth is expected in the United States, with less than 1% a year, and Western Europe, with 1 to 2%.[2]

Global vehicle ownership in 2010 was 148 vehicles in operation per 1000 inhabitants, a ratio of 1:6.75 vehicles to people, slightly down from 150 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants in 2009, a rate of 1:6.63 vehicles to people.[4] In developing countries vehicle ownership rates in cities rarely exceed 200 cars per 1,000 population.[6]

The following table summarizes the evolution of vehicle registrations in the world from 1960 to 2009:

Historical trend of worldwide vehicle registrations
1960-2009 (thousands)[7]
Type of vehicle 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009
Car registrations(1) 98,305 193,479 320,390 444,900 548,558 617,914 681,154
Truck and bus registrations 28,583 52,899 90,592 138,082 203,272 245,798 284,101
World total 126,888 246,378 410,982 582,982 751,830 863,712 965,255
Note (1) Cars registrations do not include U.S. light trucks (SUVs, minivan and pickups) that are used for personal travel. These vehicles are accounted among trucks.

European Union

The 27 European Union (EU-27) member countries had a fleet of over 256 million in 2008, and passenger cars accounted for 87% of the union's fleet. The five largest markets, Germany (17.7%), Italy (15.4%), France (13.3%), the UK (12.5%), and Spain (9.5%), accounted for 68% of the region's total registered fleet in 2008.[8][9] The EU-27 member countries had in 2009 an estimated ownership rate of 473 passenger cars per 1000 people.[10]

According to Ward's, Italy had the second highest (after the U.S.) vehicle ownership per capita in 2010, with 690 vehicles per 1000 people.[4] Germany had a rate of motorization of 534 vehicles per 1000 people and the UK of 525 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, both in 2008. France had a rate of 575 vehicles per 1000 people and Spain 608 vehicles per 1000 people in 2007.[11] Italy also leds in alternative fuel vehicles, with a fleet of 730,000 natural gas vehicles through December 2010, the largest NGV fleet in Europe.[12] Sweden, with 225,000 flexible-fuel vehicles, has the largest flexifuel fleet in Europe by mid 2011.[13]

United States

Historical evolution of
vehicle ownership rates in the U.S.
(Selected years 1900–2009)[14]
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
1900 0.11 1940 245.63 1980 710.71
1905 0.94 1945 221.80 1990 773.40
1910 5.07 1950 323.71 2000 800.30
1920 86.78 1960 410.37 2007 843.57
1930 217.34 1970 545.35 2009 828.04

According to Ward's, the U.S. has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 239.8 million by 2010, and vehicle ownership per capita in the U.S. is also the highest in the world with 769 vehicles in operation per 1000 inhabitants, or a ratio of 1:1.3 vehicles to people.[4] The U.S. Department of Energy reports a higher motorization rate of 828 vehicles per 1000 people and a total fleet of 245,441 vehicles by 2009. According to USDoE, the rate of motorization peaked in 2007 at 842.6 vehicles per 1000 people.[14] In terms of licensed drivers, as of 2009 the country had 1.0 vehicle for every licensed driver, and 1.87 vehicles per household.[15]

The fleet of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States includes almost 10 million E85 flexible-fuel vehicles,[16] the world's second largest after Brazil, but actual use of ethanol fuel is significantly limited due to the lack of E85 refueling infrastructure;[17] The fleet of hybrid electric vehicles in the United States is the largest in the world, with more than 2.0 million units by mid 2011.[18] The country's fleet also includes 112,000 natural gas vehicles through December 2010, mainly transit buses and delivery fleets.[12] Despite is relative small size, natural gas use accounted for about 52% of all alternative fuels consumed by alternative transportation fuel vehicles in the U.S. in 2009.[19]


The People's Republic of China became in 2009 the world's largest new car market

The People's Republic of China has the second largest fleet in the world, with slightly more than 78 million vehicles, overtaking Japan in 2010.[3][4] About 13.6 million vehicles were sold in 2009, and motor vehicle registrations in 2010 increased to more than 16.8 million units, representing nearly half the world’s fleet increase in 2010.[3][4]

The number of cars and motorcycles in China increased 20 times between 2000 and 2010.[20] This explosive growth has allowed China to become the world's largest new car market, overtaking the U.S. in 2009.[3][5] Nevertheless, ownership per capita is 58 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, or a ratio of 1:17.2 vehicles to people, well below the rate of motorization of developed countries.[4]


Japan had 73.9 million vehicles by 2010, and had the world's second largest motor vehicle fleet until 2009.[4] With more than 1.1 million hybrid electric vehicles, Japan has the second largest hybrid fleet in the world after the US.[21]


The Brazilian motor vehicle fleet more than doubled between 2000 and 2010

The Brazilian motor vehicle fleet reached 64.8 million vehicles in 2010, up from 29.5 million units in 2000, representing a 119% growth in ten years, and reaching a motorization rate of 294 vehicles per 1000 people.[22] In 2010 Brazil experienced the second largest fleet increase in the world after China, with 2.5 million vehicle registrations.[4]

Brazil has the largest alternative fuel vehicle fleet in the world with more than 18 million motor vehicles by June 2011, with 14.3 million flexible-fuel vehicles,[23][24][25] including more than 1 million flex-fuel motorcycles;[26][27][28] between 2.4 to 3.0 million neat ethanol vehicles still in use,[29][30] out of 5.7 million ethanol only light-vehicles produced since 1979;[23] and as of December 2010, a total of 1.66 million natural gas vehicles.[12] In addition, all the Brazilian gasoline-powered fleet is designed to operate with high ethanol blends, up to 25% ethanol fuel (E25).


India’s vehicle fleet had the second-largest growth rate after China in 2010, with 8.9%. The fleet went from 19.1 million in 2009 to 20.8 million units in 2010.[4] India has a fleet of 1,080,000 natural gas vehicles through December 2010.[12]


As of January 2011, the Australian motor vehicle fleet had 16.4 million registered vehicles, with an ownership rate of 730 motor vehicles per 1000 people, up from 696 vehicles per 1000 residents in 2006. The motor vehicle fleet grew 14.5% since 2006, for an annual rate of 2.7% during this five-year period.[31]

Comparison by regions

The following table compares vehicle ownership rates by region with the U.S., the country with the highest motorization rate in the world, and how it has evolved from 1999 to 2009.

Comparison of motorization rates by region
1999 and 2009
(vehicles per 1000 people)[32]
Country/Region 1999 2009
Africa 20.9 24.9
Asia, Far East 39.1 157.7
Asia, Middle East 66.2 101.2
Canada 560.0 620.9
Central and South America 133.6 169.7
Europe, East 370.0 363.9
Europe, West 528.8 583.3
Pacific 513.9 560.9
United States 790.07 828.04

See also


  1. ^ "ISO 3833:1977". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  2. ^ a b c Sperling, Daniel and Deborah Gordon (2009). Two billion cars: driving toward sustainability. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 4 and 13. ISBN 978-0-19-537664-7.  See Chapter 1, Note 1, pp. 261: the authors use the term cars here to represent all conventional motor vehicles, be they cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, or three-wheeled motorized vehicles."
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Automobiles and Truck Trends". Plunkett Research. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n John Sousanis (2011-08-15). "World Vehicle Population Tops 1 Billion Units". Ward AutoWorld. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  5. ^ a b "China car sales 'overtook the US' in 2009". BBC News. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  6. ^ "Motorization, Demand & City Development". The World Bank.,,contentMDK:20249477~menuPK:610224~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:341449,00.html. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  7. ^ Stacy C. Davis, Susan W. Diegel, and Robert G. Boundy (June 2011). "Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 30". Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 2011-08-27.  See Tables 3.1 and 3.2
  8. ^ "Vehicles in Use". European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  9. ^ "Car fleet by country 2008". European Automobile Manufacturers Association. 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  10. ^ "Motorisation rate". Eurostat. Retrieved 2011-08-22.  Eurostat defines this indicator "as the number of passenger cars per 1 000 inhabitants. A passenger car is a road motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, intended for the carriage of passengers and designed to seat no more than nine persons (including the driver); the term "passenger car" therefore covers microcars (need no permit to be driven), taxis and hired passenger cars, provided that they have fewer than 10 seats; this category may also include pick-ups."
  11. ^ "Energy, transport and environment indicators - eurostat Pocketbooks". Eurostat. 2010 edition. Retrieved 2011-08-23.  See table 2.1.1 (pp. 92) and table 2.1.4 (pp.98). The rates were obtained adding the light vehicle motorization rates with the heavy vehicle rates.
  12. ^ a b c d "Natural Gas Vehicle Statistics: Summary Data 2010". International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. Retrieved 2011-08-02.  Click on Summary Data (2010).
  13. ^ BAFF. "Bought ethanol cars". BioAlcohol Fuel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-08-02.  See Graph "Bought flexifuel vehicles"
  14. ^ a b Davis et al. (2011). op. cit. pp. 3-5 and 3-9.  See Tables 3.3 and 3.5
  15. ^ Davis et al. (2011). op. cit. pp. 8-6.  See Table 8.5
  16. ^ Sherry Slater (2011-05-27). "Feds urge use of blended gas". The Journal Gazette. Retrieved 2011-08-02. 
  17. ^ National Renewable Energy Laboratory USDoE (2007-09-17). "Alternative and Advanced Vehicles: Flexible Fuel Vehicles". Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  18. ^ Christie Schweinsberg (2011-06-07). "U.S. Hybrid Sales Hit 2 Million Mark". Ward's. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  19. ^ "EIA: consumption of alternative transportation fuels held steady in 2009". Green Car Congress. 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  20. ^ Jonathan Watts (2011-08-24). "China's love affair with the car shuns green vehicles". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  21. ^ "Sales in Japan of TMC Hybrids Top 1 Million Units". Toyota News releases. 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  22. ^ Ardilhes Moreira (2011-02-13). "Frota de veículos cresce 119% em dez anos no Brasil, aponta Denatran" (in Portugues). Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  23. ^ a b "Anúario da Industria Automobilistica Brasileira 2010: Tabelas 2.1-2.2-2.3 Produção por combustível - 1957/2009" (in Portuguese). ANFAVEA - Associação Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veículos Automotores (Brasil). Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  24. ^ "Produção de Automóveis por Tipo e Combustível- 2010(Tabela 10)" (in Portuguese) (PDF). ANFAVEA - Associação Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veículos Automotores (Brasil). 2010-07-21. Retrieved 2011-02-05.  Production up to December 2010
  25. ^ "Cartas de Anfavea No. 302: Licenciamento total de automóveis e comerciais leves por combustível" (in Portuguese). ANFAVEA - Associação Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veículos Automotores (Brasil). July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-02.  Production up to June 2011
  26. ^ Abraciclo (2010-01-27). "Motos flex foram as mais vendidas em 2009 na categoria 150cc" (in Portuguese). UNICA. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  27. ^ "Produção Motocicletas 2010" (in Portuguese). ABRACICLO. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  28. ^ "Produção Motocicletas 2011" (in Portuguese). ABRACICLO. Retrieved 2011-08-02.  Production through June 2011.
  29. ^ Alfred Szwarc. "Abstract: Use of Bio-fuels in Brazil". United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  30. ^ Luiz A. Horta Nogueira (2004-03-22). "Perspectivas de un Programa de Biocombustibles en América Central: Proyecto Uso Sustentable de Hidrocarburos" (in Spanish) (PDF). Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL). Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  31. ^ "Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 31 Jan 2011". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  32. ^ Davis et al. (2011). op. cit. pp. 3-8 and 3-9.  See Tables 3.4 and 3.5

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