For anyone reading this article, the benefits of electricity need not be explained.
Access to electricity is now an afterthought in most parts of the world, so it may come as a surprise to learn that 16% of the world’s population — an estimated 1.2 billion people — are still living without this basic necessity. Lack of access to electricity, or “energy poverty”, is the ultimate economic hindrance as it prevents people from participating in the modern economy.
Where are people still living in the dark, and how are these energy challenges being addressed? Let’s dive in.
Where the Grid Reaches, and Beyond
At this point in time, a majority of countries have 100% electricity access rates, and many more have rates above 95%. This includes most of the world’s high-population countries, such as China, Brazil, and the United States.
India is fast approaching that benchmark for access. The massive country has made great strides in a short amount of time, jumping from a 70% to 93% access rate in a single decade.
Meanwhile, North Korea is an obvious outlier in East Asia. The Hermit Kingdom’s lack of electrification isn’t just conspicuous in the data — it’s even visible from space. The border between the two Koreas is clearly visible where the dark expanse of North Korea runs up against the glow of South Korea’s urban areas.
It’s been estimated that more than half of North Korea’s people are living in energy poverty.
Africa’s Access to Electricity
In 1995, a mere 20% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population had access to power. While today’s figure is above 40%, that still means roughly 600 million people in the region are living without access to electricity.
Not surprisingly, energy poverty disproportionately impacts rural Africans. Nearly all of the countries with the lowest levels of electricity access have rural-majority populations:
|Global Rank||Country||Electricity Access||Rural Population|
|#190||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||23%||58%|
|#188||🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||25%||71%|
Nonexistent and unreliable electricity isn’t just an issue confined to rural Africa. Even Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy — has an electrification rate of just 54%.
Where there is an electrical grid, instability is also causing problems. A recent survey found that a majority of Nigerian tech firms face 30 or more power outages per month, and more than half ranked electricity as a “major” or “severe” constraint to doing business.
This is pattern that is repeated in a number of countries in Africa:
Mini-Grids, Big Impact
It has taken an average of 25 years for countries to move from 20% to 80% access, so history suggests that it may be a number of years before sub-Saharan Africa fully catches up with other parts of the world. That said, Vietnam was able to close that gap in only nine years.
Traditional utility companies continue to make inroads in the region, but it might be a smaller-scale solution that brings electricity to people in harder-to-reach rural villages.
Between 2009 and 2015, solar PV module prices fell by 80%, ushering in a new era of affordability. Solar powered mini-grids don’t just have the potential to bring electricity to new markets, it can also replace the diesel-powered generators commonly used in Africa.
For the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who are still unable to fully participate in the modern world, these innovations can’t come soon enough.
Visualizing the Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes
We visualize how far popular EV models will take you on real-world routes between major cities, and which are the most cost effective.
The Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes
Between growing concerns around climate change, new commuting behaviors due to COVID-19, and imminent policy changes, the global transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is well under way.
By the year 2040, sales of electric vehicles are projected to account for 58% of new car sales, up from just 2.7% currently.
But switching from a gasoline car to an electric one is not seamless. With charging and range capacities to consider, and the supporting infrastructure still being slowly rolled out in many parts of the world, understanding the realities of EV transportation is vital.
Above, we highlight 2020 all-electric vehicle range on well-recognized routes, from California’s I-5 in the U.S. to the A2 autobahn in Germany. The data on estimated ranges and costs are drawn from the U.S. EPA as well as directly from manufacturer websites.
The EV Breakdown: Tesla is King of Range
For many consumers, the most important aspect of an electric vehicle is how far they can travel on a single charge.
Whether it’s for long commutes or out-of-city trips, vehicles must meet a minimum threshold to be considered practical for many households. As the table below shows, Tesla’s well-known EVs are far-and-away the best option for long range drivers.
|Vehicle||Range (miles)||Range (km)||MSRP||Cost per mile|
|Tesla Model S Long Range Plus||402||647||$74,990||$186.54|
|Tesla Model X Long Range Plus||351||565||$79,990||$227.89|
|Tesla Model S Performance||348||560||$94,990||$272.96|
|Tesla Model 3 Long Range||322||518||$46,990||$145.93|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||316||509||$49,990||$158.20|
|Tesla Model X Performance||305||491||$99,990||$327.84|
|Tesla Model 3 LR Performance||299||481||$54,990||$183.91|
|Tesla Model Y Performance||291||468||$59,990||$206.15|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||259||417||$36,620||$141.39|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||258||415||$37,190||$144.15|
|Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus||250||402||$37,990||$151.96|
|Kia Niro EV||239||385||$39,090||$163.56|
|Nissan LEAF e+ S||226||364||$38,200||$169.03|
|Audi e-tron Sportback||218||351||$69,100||$316.97|
|Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL||215||346||$39,750||$184.88|
|Porsche Taycan 4S Perf Battery Plus||203||327||$112,990||$556.60|
|Porsche Taycan Turbo||201||323||$153,510||$763.73|
|Porsche Taycan Turbo S||192||309||$187,610||$977.14|
|Hyundai IONIQ Electric||170||274||$33,045||$194.38|
|MINI Cooper SE||110||177||$29,900||$271.82|
In an industry where innovation and efficiency are vital, Tesla’s first-mover advantage is evident. From the more affordable Model 3 to the more luxurious Model S, the top eight EVs with the longest ranges are all Tesla vehicles.
At 402 miles (647 km), the range of the number one vehicle (the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus) got 127 miles more per charge than the top non-Tesla vehicle, the Polestar 2—an EV made by Volvo’s standalone performance brand.
Closer Competition in Cost
Though Tesla leads on overall range and battery capacity, accounting for the price of each vehicle shows that cost-efficiency is far more competitive among brands.
By dividing the retail price by the maximum range of each vehicle, we can paint a clearer picture of efficiency. Leading the pack is the Chevrolet Bolt, which had a cost of $141.39/mile of range in 2020 while still placing in the top 10 for range with 259 miles (417 km).
Just behind in second place was the Hyundai Kona electric at $144.15/mile of range, followed by the Tesla Model 3—the most efficient of the automaker’s current lineup. Rounding out the top 10 are the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S, but the difference from number one to number ten was minimal, at just over $45/mile.
|Top 10 All-Electric Vehicles by Cost Efficiency|
|Vehicle||Cost per mile|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||$141.39|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||$144.15|
|Tesla Model 3 Long Range||$145.93|
|Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus||$151.96|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||$158.20|
|Kia Niro EV||$163.56|
|Nissan LEAF e+ S||$169.03|
|Tesla Model 3 LR Performance||$183.91|
|Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL||$184.88|
|Tesla Model S Long Range Plus||$186.54|
Higher Ranges and Lower Costs on the Horizon
The most important thing to consider, however, is that the EV industry is entering a critical stage.
On one hand, the push for electrification and innovation in EVs has driven battery capacity higher and costs significantly lower. As batteries account for the bulk of weight, cost, and performance in EVs, those dividends will pay out in longer ranges and greater efficiencies with newer models.
Equally important is the strengthening global push for electric vehicle adoption. In countries like Norway, EVs are already among the best selling cars on the market, while adoption rates in China and the U.S. are steadily climbing. This is also being impacted by policy decisions, such as California’s recent announcement that it would be banning the sale of gasoline cars by 2035.
Meanwhile, the only thing outpacing the growing network of Tesla superchargers is the company’s rising stock price. Not content to sit on the sidelines, competing automakers are rapidly trying to catch up. Nissan’s LEAF is just behind the Tesla Model 3 as the world’s second-best-selling EV, and Audi recently rolled out a supercharger network that can charge its cars from 0% to 80% at a faster rate than Tesla.
As the tidal wave of electric vehicle demand and adoption continues to pick up steam, consumers can expect increasing innovation to drive up ranges, decrease costs, and open up options.
Correction: A previous version of this graphic showed a European route that was the incorrect distance.
Charting the Flows of Energy Consumption by Source and Country (1969-2018)
For the last 50 years, fossil fuels have dominated energy consumption. This chart looks at how the energy mix is changing in over 60+ countries.
Charting Energy Consumption by Source and Country
View the interactive version of this post by clicking here.
Over the last 50 years, the world has seen a colossal increase in energy consumption—and with the ongoing transition to renewable energy, it’s interesting to look at how these sources of energy have been evolving over time.
While some countries continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas, others have integrated alternative energy sources into their mix.
This visualization comes to us from Brian Moore and it charts the evolution of energy consumption in the 64 countries that have data available for all of the last 50 years.
Tera-What? The Most Prominent Sources of Energy (2009-2018)
First, let’s take a look at which sources have produced the most energy over the last decade of data. Energy consumption is measured in terawatt-hours (TWh)—a unit of energy equal to outputting one trillion watts for an hour.
|Energy Source||% of Total Energy Consumption |
|Sum of Total Energy
Looking at this data, it’s clear that fossil fuels have been used much more than alternative sources. A deeper dive into the topic helps explain why.
Fossil Fuels: What the Data Shows
As the predominant source of energy, fossil fuels collectively accounted for a massive 86.2% of total energy consumption over 2009-2018, or roughly 1.2 million TWh. If you’re wondering, that’s enough to power the equivalent of 109 billion U.S. homes with electricity for a year.
Among fossil fuel sources, oil emerges as the clear leader, responsible for 34.3% or 509,800 TWh of energy consumption over 2009-2018. Apart from being the primary fuel for transportation throughout history, oil remains relatively affordable—making it an easy choice for producers and consumers alike.
Closely following oil is coal, which countries rely on for its abundance, low costs, and low infrastructure requirements. Over the last decade of data, 29.2% of total energy came from coal, amounting to a substantial 434,300 TWh.
As a cleaner alternative to coal, natural gas has increased in popularity. Gas accounted for 22.8% or 339,300 TWh of energy consumed between 2009-2018, mainly attributed to its ample supply and affordability.
What About Renewables?
Only 13.8% of energy consumption over 2009-2018 came from renewable or alternative sources of energy, and hydropower accounts for nearly half of it. Why has the use of environmentally-friendly energy sources been so low?
Setting up alternative power plants—especially wind, solar, and nuclear—requires significant capital investment, while facing competition from cheaper and more convenient fossil fuels. The barriers to adopting renewable energy have been weakening, but still remain quite high for low-income countries.
Wind and solar energy were responsible for a mere 1.7% of energy consumption. Compared to fossil fuels like oil and coal, this percentage seems even more minuscule than it does on its own—mainly attributable to the high costs traditionally associated with wind and solar energy.
The Top 10 Countries Relying on Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels have been the predominant source of energy over the years. After all, 43 of these 64 countries sourced more than 80% of their energy from fossil fuels over 2009-2018.
Here are the ones that come out on top:
|Country||% of Energy Consumed From Fossil Fuels|
|Most Used Fossil Fuel
|Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦||100%||Oil|
|Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹||100%||Gas|
|United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪||99.9%||Gas|
|Hong Kong 🇭🇰||99.9%||Oil|
Although it is startling to see that several countries were 100% reliant on fossil fuels, it comes as no surprise that these are countries with abundant reserves of oil or natural gas. Not only are fossil fuels central to certain economies in Middle Eastern and North African (MENA), but they also remain highly affordable for consumers in these places.
On a broader scale, developing and low-income countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as coal for access to cheap electricity and ease of installation.
The Top 10 Countries Using Alternative Energy Sources
The transition to alternative energy sources has been welcomed by many countries, but only a few have prioritized its adoption in the energy mix. Here’s a look at the top 10:
|Country||% of Energy From Alternative Sources|
|Most Used Alternative Energy Source
|New Zealand 🇳🇿||37.2%||Hydropower|
Iceland is the only country to have sourced over 80% of its energy from alternative sources over 2009-2018. In general, developed European countries are leading the charge—with Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and France making the top five.
The dominance of hydropower is notable, and so is the lack of wind and solar energy sources. Denmark had the highest percentage of wind energy in its mix, with 14.5%, whereas Italy had the highest percentage of solar, with just 2.4%.
It should be kept in mind that this percentage does not account for population differences. For example, although Italy boasted the highest percentage of solar in its energy mix with 2.4%, China consumed the most amount of energy from solar sources—despite it accounting for only 0.3% of total Chinese energy consumption.
Nevertheless, the costs of solar and wind energy have been falling continuously, and the potential for growth in the renewable energy sector is higher than ever.
The Transition to Renewables: Are We On Track?
Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have been the primary source of energy worldwide. More recently, the use of renewable energy sources has increased, but not substantially enough.
This predominant reliance on fossil fuels is not doing the transition to renewable energy any favors, but it shines a light on the massive untapped potential for alternative energies, especially in the developing world.
With the prices of renewable energy at record lows and increasing investment flows, the next decade will be a defining one for the global transition to clean energy.
Correction: A modified version of Brian Moore’s visualization was previous published here. We’ve since updated it to the original design.
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