Tesla remains king of the hill in electromobility innovation

Tesla remains king of the hill in electromobility innovation

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

According to the latest edition of the Electromobility Report, Tesla remains the world’s most innovative car manufacturer in the field of battery-electric mobility. The VW Group holds on to second place, while Hyundai improves to third. Chinese car manufacturers achieve top scores in e-mobility: BYD, Geely (incl. Volvo) and SAIC show enormous innovative strength and come in 4th, 5th and 7th place.

The study, which is updated annually, has been recording and evaluating the cumulative innovative strength of more than 30 automotive companies since 2012 on the basis of more than 700 individually assessed innovations from series production vehicles. The most important criteria are in the fields of range, consumption and charging performance.

According to this methodology, the Californian electric car manufacturer Tesla has increased its lead as top innovator by more than 23 index points (IP) in the calendar year 2021 and now has a cumulative BEV innovation strength of around 176 IP. Responsible for this upward trend is, for example, the range increase of the Model 3 mid-size sedan from 580 km to 614 km (WLTP) as part of a software update. The vehicle thus achieves another segment best and can distinguish itself from the BMW i4 with 590 km, among others.

The Volkswagen Group is unable to shorten its gap to Tesla as innovation strength increases only slightly by 10.6 IP in calendar year 2021. Among others, the Porsche Taycan introduces an all-wheel drive innovation that allows the front electric motor to be almost completely disconnected, reducing power consumption.

The Hyundai Motor Group comes in third for the first time, beating the Chinese conglomerate BYD with an overall innovation strength of 76.9 IP. The main driver of this development is the electric offensive of the premium subsidiary brand Genesis. With the launch of the G80e sedan and the GV60 mid-size SUV, both models achieve new segment bests in terms of charging power with up to 350 kW DC. BYD’s innovation gain is mainly due to the introduction of the Dolphin small electric car. This is now also equipped with the special lithium iron phosphate-based Blade battery, which makes the vehicle less susceptible to fire and, according to the manufacturer, allows it to survive a period of 8 years with a calculated range of 1.2 million kilometres. The Chinese manufacturer narrowly misses out on third place, but confirms its role as a fast follower with an overall innovation strength of over 76 IP.

Chinese carmaker Geely enters the top five for the first time thanks to a strong innovation increase of almost 21 IP, largely driven by the Zeekr and Polestar brands. For example, the Zeekr 001 premium electric sedan, based on the SEA platform, impresses with a NEDC range of 712 km. In addition to the introduction of the lighter single motor variant of the Polestar 2 with a lower overall power consumption, Polestar’s innovations particularly concern group innovations via over-the-air updates. On the one hand, customers of the Dual Motor variant will receive a software-based performance enhancement and, on top of that, battery preconditioning linked to Google Maps in order to be able to call up the highest possible charging performance.

While the 14-brand group Stellantis, which was created in 2021 on the basis of previous innovations by Fiat-Chrysler and PSA, is ranked 6th after adjustment, another Chinese carmaker, SAIC, is ranked 7th. The reasons for this development include two product launches by the “Maxus” sub-brand. The latter released a minivan called “MIFA 9” with a range of up to 560 km (NEDC) as well as a pick-up truck called T90, whose electric range of 535 km (NEDC) is the second best segment value behind the Rivian R1T. German premium manufacturers BMW and Mercedes-Benz are able to break into the top 10 thanks to the expansion of their electric model ranges with the BMW i4 and iX and the Mercedes-Benz EQA and EQS respectively, most of which set new segment benchmarks in range, charging performance and fuel consumption, according to the CAM study.

Renault and General Motors, on the other hand, slip down the rankings: While Renault drops 6 places to 11th place, the US company General Motors, despite an overall unsatisfactory innovation performance in the calendar year 2021, still comes in 10th place with just under 44 innovation points (previous year: 6). Intra-group improvements in range and power consumption by the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Menlo EV and the Buick Velite 6 EV save the Americans from a worse relegation. Renault’s alliance partner Nissan, still the 3rd most innovative BEV manufacturer in 2015, comes in at only 17th.

Established carmakers such as Tata (JLR), Ford, Mazda as well as Toyota and Honda remain as latecomers to pure electric mobility. In contrast, automotive newcomers such as Rivian, Lucid, Nio, GAC or Xpeng are already developing a high level of innovation with their innovations despite fewer series-produced vehicles on the market. For example, the US start-up Lucid Motors succeeded in putting a vehicle on the road with the Lucid Air (Dream Edition) that, with a listed EPA range of the equivalent of 837 km and a battery capacity beyond 100 kWh, even outperforms flagships such as a Mercedes-Benz EQS (770 km WLTP). The Amazon-backed company Rivian even manages to launch two new vehicles in parallel, the R1T and the R1S, which also achieve top values in their segments. Against this backdrop, the need for traditional automobile giants such as Toyota and Honda to catch up, with 5 and 3 IP respectively, is all the more striking.

In line with the innovation activity in the field of electric mobility, the study’s publisher, the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), expects another significant increase in sales figures for the current year; the authors of the study expect further rapid growth in production capacities of around 50% to more than 6.7 million BEVs worldwide. The lion’s share will go to Tesla – after the start of production in Europe and the ramp-up of production in Texas, the study assumes sales of 1.3 million units for Tesla in 2022. Other relevant players such as SAIC, Volkswagen or BYD will gradually catch up with the global market leader Tesla in the course of their electrification strategy and exceed the threshold of 500,000 electric vehicles sold.

The German premium manufacturers BMW and Mercedes-Benz are still in the middle of the pack with their current BEV sales of around 100,000 vehicles, but as part of the expansion of the model range, a doubling to around 200,000 units is expected for the calendar year 2022. While the automotive start-ups Xiaopeng and Nio are steadily ramping up their production and sales, lagging behind the industry leader Tesla, established manufacturers such as Ford and Toyota are still far behind. Strategic realignments are only likely to have a full impact in the coming years.

Related articles:

Tesla launches e-car production in Germany

Volkswagen builds new e-car factory to take on Tesla

Volkswagen defends title as most innovative car manufacturer

Innovation in e-mobility: Two winners and some surprising laggards

Electromobility: China takes pole position – again

Li-ion battery demand leads to raw material bottleneck, study warns


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