Published on January 20th, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


BYD Sold The Most Plug-In Cars In 2015

January 20th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

We have been talking a lot since the beginning of the year about which company sold the most electric cars in 2015. For the purposes of this story, “electric” is defined as any car with a plug, whether it is a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt or a battery electric car like the Tesla Model S.

BYD-Tang-phev-interior-500x282According to Green Car Reports, BMW sold “about 30,000” of its i3 and i8 cars. Chevrolet sold approximately 20,000 Volts and Spark EVs. Ford sold a similar number of Fusion PHEV, C Max PHEV and Focus Electric cars. Nissan sold 17,269 LEAF automobiles in the US, but it also markets that car and the electric e-NV200 van in many nations around the world. Green Car Reports total sales at around 50,000 worldwide.

That leaves Tesla with 50,557 cars delivered in all markets in 2015. So that means Tesla is the plug-in champ, right? Actually, no. Tesla’s performance is extraordinary, for sure. But the global plug-in sales leader is a company most Americans have never heard of — BYD.

The Chinese company made the world’s first production plug-in hybrid, the F3DM, in December 2008, which went on sale two years before the Chevrolet Volt. The F3DM was crude compared to the Chevrolet offering, but it started the company on the road to producing more and better electric vehicles. Along the way, it got into the electric bus business, and is now one of the world’s largest manufacturers of both urban and intercity electrified buses. Its forward progress even convinced Warren Buffett to invest in the company.


BYD makes battery electric vehicles, including the E6 hatchback which is used for taxi service in several cities. Uber is using them as well in Chicago.  It also makes a variety of plug-in hybrids, including the newer Qin compact sedan and Tang compact SUV. According to the company, it delivered 31,898 Qins and 18,375 Tangs, along with 7,029 of the older E6s, during 2015. Add in a few T3 small commercial vans, some E5 battery electric compact sedans, and 2,888 compact Denza hatchbacks built as part of its joint venture with Daimler and the total comes out to be 61,722 BYD vehicles with plugs sold last year.

Just to be clear, all of those are highway capable cars. The numbers do not include any low speed neighborhood electric vehicles, although BYD produces lots of those as well. The US is celebrating a record year for new car sales, with almost 17.5 million sold. The Chinese market eclipsed that total by more than 3 million vehicles. Cadillac and Buick will both import Chinese made cars this year. The future of the car industry is taking shape now in the Orient.

Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

  • Rolf

    Toyota is missing from the list. Correct??

    • John Moore

      Toyota announced today that they were coming out with a lineup of new cars that would be powered by kryptonite. They indicated that kryptonite was better than batteries, and that the lack of fueling locations, and the inability to fuel at home and the fact that kryptonite will explode, and that it will kill Superman, are not problems. Honda is evaluating the situation.

  • ROBwithaB

    Not a surprise. This has been coming for some time now.
    Could you please publish the full list, including all the other Chinese manufacturers?

  • Alharbi

    Worth noting that 10,000 of the 61000 BYD Plug-in vehicles were sold in December 2015.

    • Adrian

      That’s impressive. They’re scaling faster than Tesla. Granted, with smaller and inferior batteries, but impressive nontheless.

  • Marion Meads

    The first BYD cars tested in the US rusted away very quickly from the salts applied on icy roads. I don’t know if they have passed NHTSA standards for safety. Of course, concerns for safety and quality are not a concern in China. When the government mandates or forcefully encourage everyone to have an EV, then it will be done.

    The real test is if the rest of the world will buy their EV’s after tests of quality, reliability and safety. BYD buses have so far been successful, after all those government subsidies both by China and the US.

    • Kraylin

      Although I basically share your opinion of China my hope is their environmental record will continue to improve as a result of external forces. Eg. Pressure from buyers in developed nations who prefer to buy from socially/environmentally responsible companies…

      • There is a lot of pressure from within as well. The Chinese are getting tired of breathing polluted air and when your father is a traffic cop in Beijing and dies in his early 40s from lung disease, you can bet you will care.

        • super390

          The key is the relative power of the Chinese capitalist class over the state. They haven’t been rich long enough to have the arrogance and the entire alternative culture established by the far-right/oligarch/Fox/Christian theocrat/ gun coalition in America that can blackmail elected leaders into submission. But they have no tradition of taking responsibility for the well-being of the nation either.

          • neroden

            Well, there is the Confucian tradition which has never really gone away.

            And the Chinese capitalists are mostly first-generation entrepeneurs. Rather than second-generation managers (they have some of those), or third-generation financiers. In the US we’re mostly on the third generation of corporate leadership, and arguably have quite a lot of the fourth generation at the moment. The fourth generation is upper-class twits.

            (The generational theory for corporate executives is remarkably reliable.)

          • super390

            I agree about the decay of elites. You can practically trace it in the generations of the Rockefellers, Fords, and Bushes. But the first generation entrepreneurs of America were both the most productive and the most ruthless. Henry Ford I was a psychopath. And there were financiers among them like Jay Gould, who said “I can always hire half the working class to shoot the other half.” Which is not far from what was actually happening at factories and mines then.

            My concern about the Confucian tradition is that it was embodied by the mandarin class, not businessmen. What I think really works is blood loyalty, tribalism that sees its main enemy as poverty, not some ethnic minority to persecute.

            The story of Japan’s elites starting in the 1860s is not one of Confucianism, but a belief that the entire nation must be uplifted in the name of survival against Western imperialism. This meant that the elites could manipulate the proportion of tradition and Western imitation. When this model failed during the Great Depression, it failed spectacularly. Yet the foundation had been laid for a second miracle under US sponsorship. China is copying the mechanisms, but it can’t force its businessmen to be sincere in their loyalties.

          • Epicurus

            Yep. Ford hired violent thugs to stand over assembly line workers to make sure they worked as fast as possible. An elderly former worker said hell couldn’t be worse than the Ford assembly line was.

            Thanks for the Gould quote.

    • I wouldn’t say concern for safety and quality are not a concern, but certainly less of a concern or rather earlier in the learning curve.

      • super390

        There are Chinese companies that make excellent goods that were unknown a decade ago. But there’s too many companies for consumers there or abroad to know who’s good and who’s crap. The best blu-ray players in the world today are probably made by Oppo, which is a boutique division of a shadowy Chinese giant that mostly makes cheap players for Western and Japanese brand names. Its reputation spread by word of mouth because the parent firm never really spent on advertising. That’s not going to work for exported cars.

        • Yes, some of the world’s best solar panels now come from Chinese companies.

    • just_jim

      As long as the air is so dirty that there are days that ICE autos aren’t allowed to be driven in the cities, there will be incentives to buy an electric car.

    • super390

      Everyone values his own profit above human rights. The criminals of Big Tobacco are still out there, shipping cigarettes to Asia, and the criminals who ran their propaganda campaigns now work for Big Oil. Most of the people running for president right now would eliminate the EPA, and half the country would vote for them in the fantasy that they would benefit thereby.

      And we are bringing slave labor back to America. Everything we know about our country tells us that private prison corporations will use their profits to fund propaganda to seduce the public into embracing prison labor. And white jurors will make sure 90% of the slaves will be non-white.

      The difference is, China used its awful strategies to uplift its population from the horrible African-level poverty of pre-Communist anarchy and become a world power. While our owners will use “restoring our freedoms” to restore the wages and social conditions of 150 years ago if the markets reward it, while continuing to spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined.

      • Shiggity

        The last time wealth inequality was at the level we’re at now, we had the American Civil War. After that we had the aristocracy battles of WW1. Two of the worst epochs in human history.

        Apparently humans can’t learn from their mistakes every 100 years.

    • Frank

      The US wasn’t any better. Ever hear of the Cuyahoga river? Well it caught fire a few times before they started putting rules in place. What you are talking about is a human problem, not a Chinese problem. We tend to be reactive.

    • CU

      “The pressures of very cheap oil could easily persuade China to resort back to fossil fuels…” Well, that is a major problem in the US; isn’t it?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Could, but how likely?

        China has made public statements about their intent to be a leader in the fight against climate change.

        And China is under a lot of pressure at home to clean up the air.

        It’s not that RE is expensive. In many cases wind is now the least expensive way to bring new generation online and solar is getting close to joining it.

        • Epicurus

          “China has made public statements about their intent to be a leader in the fight against climate change.”

          The Reds have to admired for that.

          • super390

            The Communists rely more on patriotism than Marxism now. Ordinary Chinese probably care more about local pollution that harms them, not the well-being of the rest of the world. But since China was never infected with an all-out capitalist theology, at least it doesn’t yet have vast numbers of politically active pigs who scheme to install a new order where the poor will face starvation forever as a “test” of their “character”.

          • Epicurus

            Few ordinary Americans care about the well-being of the rest of the world or even what kind of world they are leaving to their children. People who live hand to mouth don’t have time to think about much more than themselves. That’s the way the oligarchs like it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect the majority of “the oligarchs” would prefer that people on the bottom had better lives.

            They just don’t want to give up any of their wealth to help it happen. Many are, I suspect, caught up in the game of holding and increasing their position on the ‘wealth rankings’.

    • JamesWimberley

      “Of course, concerns for safety and quality are not a concern in China.” Frankly, I find this comment racist and invite you to withdraw it. It’s from the same stable as the “lives don’t matter so much in Asian cultures” stuff you heard during the Vietnam war. The replies to the slur on quality are: Where do you think your iPhone was made? Why do you think that China’s new rich buy so many Western luxury products? Why will collectors pay fortunes for Song dynasty Chinese porcelain?

      Are you talking of the government? Sure, they have given priority to development at all costs, and are beginning to regret it. Actual evidence: after Fukushima, the Chinese government suspended the nuclear programme for several years while a safety review was carried out. It’s now been restarted, but reactor sites are running into delays, which probably means the safety regulators have teeth.

      The switch from oil is strategic. China has little of its own and must import from unstable and unpleasant countries in the Middle East. A path where oil imports rise for decades is far too risky. A temporary price drop doesn’t change the calculation.

      • John Moore

        James, I agree with you that Marion’s comment was wrong. And by wrong I mean incorrect. But I’m not sure I would go as far as to say racist. That may be too harsh. I think she may be more guilty of being behind the times with her comment.
        Certainly, ten years ago, China was much more, shall we say, ruthless about producing products and profit than they are today. Things like the melamine scandal come to mind. The unrestrained use of coal, without discussion of the consequences comes to mind. And there are still human rights abuses and workplace abuses that remind one of the status of laborers in the industrial USA, one hundred years ago, and worse. But China has an established, growing, educated middle class. This, over time, changes things. Their government has to be more attentive to the desires of this middle class. And they have shown some signs of this.
        China ischanging at such an incredibly rapid pace. Today, they are an established industrial powerhouse, in search of the respect of the rest of the industrialized world. They see themselves as being a world leader in many ways.
        So clearly, the idea that safety and quality are not a concern is inaccurate. If it weren’t, the government there would not be making the efforts they are to clean up air pollution. They would have never allowed that documentary about pollution, “Under the Dome” to be shown in China (though now banned).
        So I want to give Marion a pass. I think we all know where she was coming from in referencing China’s mistreatment of it’s population. But I took it her comment as more passe than racist .

        • super390

          I think that China went into crash growth mode because someone in Beijing bothered to read the manifestos of Dick Cheney’s Project for a New American Century while he was still at Halliburton. These guys were proclaiming that any country that dared try to grow its economy to challenge the US was a threat – and those bastards always think war is a solution to every threat. Once he was in power, the only solution for China was to wait for him to be distracted. 9/11 was the opportunity. The US couldn’t threaten China while all its ground forces were stuck in the Middle East, and it needed someone to buy its vast debts. As a result, Beijing threw out long-term planning and any thought of alternative energy, hoping to make itself an economic superpower and enmesh its economy with the US, presenting a fait accompli once the White House woke up from its fantasy of ruling Iraq & Iran. Now China pays the price, but from its point of view it was worth it.

      • super390

        What you said about China and nuclear safety is the best news I’ve had all year. One earthquake halfway around the world and we’re all going to be trapped in our panic rooms.

    • Epicurus

      “China values profit above human rights, the environment, and the health of their people.”

      And the U.S. doesn’t? Get real. We poison the world with our cigarettes. American arms makers get rich from the wars we start and which never end. Our own troops are sickened from our depleted uranium munitions. Millions of Americans work full time and still don’t earn enough to support themselves. Despite some gains due to Obamacare, millions of Americans still can’t afford health care and are either uninsured or underinsured. We don’t even have the decency to attempt to provide health care to all our people.

      A clear majority of Americans want things like Medicare for all and clean air and water, but our representatives consistently oppose the will of the people on these things. When the political minority is consistently over-represented in state legislatures and the Congress, I wonder to what extent we can call the U.S. a republic.

      Right now, North Texans are begging the EPA to propose and implement a plan for cleaner air because our state legislature won’t do so.

      • super390

        Oh, it’s a republic all right. If you dig into the ideology of the right-wing movement, they hide their undemocratic goals by worshiping the past, knowing that most citizens are ignorant of how few people really had a voice in early republics. “Original intent”, “states’ rights”, etc. all reference the Founding Fathers’ 18th century disdain for mass voting. All states required that voters be property owners. In the first few presidential elections, only 1 to 2% of Americans voted. That’s what a republic meant back then.

        • Epicurus

          1 to 2%? I didn’t know it was that bad, but I can believe it. When you cut out women, minorities, and non-landowners, there aren’t a lot of people left.

          What the Founding Fathers seem to have intended was an oligarchy.

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