China strengthens lead in electromobility

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

In 2016, 507.000 “New Energy Vehicles” (NEVs) have been sold in China. New Energy Vehicle is the term used in this country for electric and hybrid vehicles and includes passenger cars as well as commercial vehicles. This figure comprises 336.000 passenger cars and 171.000 trucks, lorries and vans, but not the 115.000 electrically-driven buses which come on top. In contrast to the western markets where hybrid cars account for the majority of the electric vehicles; in China 81 % of the e-cars sold are battery electric vehicles. The bestsellers among China’s e-cars are made by local companies; manufacturer BYD alone accounts for the top three models. The only foreign vendor in China’s electric top 20 is Tesla.


One of the reasons why China will stay in the pole position of the global electromobility market is the quota system for electric vehicles planned by the government; this regulation will rule that all manufacturers will have to sell 8% of their output as electric vehicles in 2018; in 2020 this quota will rise to 12%.


In 2016, sales of electric vehicles climbed by 53%.  In the United States, the second most important market for e-cars, unit sales rose by 38% to about 157.000 vehicles. 84.000 of them were battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the remainder were PHEVs. Market leader in the US is Tesla who had a share of more than 50%, followed by the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3. PHEV sales rose much stronger (+69%) than overall electric vehicles.

In Europe, Norway continued in its special role; sales of electric vehicles rose 38% to 45.000 units. Also in the United Kingdom, demand for electric cars climbed above average – 37.000 units sold, 29% more than in 2015. France achieved a unit growth of 28%. A characteristic of France is that in this country BEVs account for 67% of all electric vehicles; only 33% are PHEVs.

Sales trends for electric vehicles (BEV + PHEV)
in selected markets. Source: CAM

Germany had a sobering balance sheet. Despite an incentive bonus by the German government, sales grew by a meagre 7% to just 25.154 electric vehicles. And this small growth was caused exclusively by the demand for hybrids; BEV sales even saw a decline of 7.7%.


CAM expects moderate sales growth for electromobility in the most important markets for the two to three years ahead. By 2020 however, the market watchers expect the market dynamics to take off, triggered by the massive development efforts on the part of the OEMs and the regulatory environment in some major markets that can be expected to become effective. These factors will drive a massive change in the area of the power train technologies over the 10 to 15 years to come. “2016 marks the mental ‘tipping point’ for the break-through of electromobility”, explains study author Stefan Bratzel. “An amalgam of exhaust gas scandal, national and local environmental goals plus electromobility-friendly legal initiatives, in particular in China, have pulled out all the stops to a dynamic that will massively affect the strategies of the car manufacturers.” 


The CAM market scientists took a scenario as a basis in which conventional powertrains with internal combustion engines will start to become increasingly expensive because of increasingly tighter environmental rules. At the same time, falling battery prices will contribute to make electric vehicles more affordable and technological innovations in particular in the areas of charging time and driving range will increase customer value. A precondition will be a charging grid with a much higher density compared to today.

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