When people ask me which will be this year’s best selling EV, the answer is simple: Tesla Model 3.
But when people want to know more, I can guesstimate that the runner-up spot should come from one of these three models: Nissan Leaf, BAIC EC-Series, or BYD Yuan EV, with the Japanese hatchback probably surpassing the Chinese models.
More detailed than this is really hard to say, because with the exception of the top 3 models, the numbers in 2018 were really close and the Chinese models, who make up the majority of the 2018 Top 20 Best Sellers, usually have a high degree of unpredictability, with one of the reasons being that, because demand is higher than supply, some Chinese automakers prefer to build higher priced (and more profitable) models, starving the lower priced ones.
Because of this, predicting 2019 sales by brand seems a bit easier to do, so here is my attempt to see the future in the Nostradamus crystal ball (note: BEV purists, please ignore this list read this one):
1. Tesla (450,000–500,000 units) — As I have written before, it is difficult to have a real idea on the number of deliveries that the Model 3 will have in 2019. It could be more than 400,000 units, or significantly less than that. It will depend on so many factors (production ramp up, Chinese tariffs, Chinese Gigafactory, Standard Range version availability …).
No one, except maybe “Doc” Brown, can honestly say they know what that number will be, but I’ll make an educated guess of a little over 350,000 deliveries. Add to this number some 100,000 Model S & X deliveries, where the slight sales drop of the first quarters of the year will be compensated by a strong Q4 2019, once the production of the revised flagships is in full swing.
2. BYD (400,000–430,000) — With over 80,000 customers still waiting for their plug-in BYD, this is another EV maker that can’t really say it has a demand problem, so if the production/battery constraints allow, the goal of 400,000 deliveries in 2019 should be surpassed by some margin. The crossover Yuan EV and e5 sedan are said to be the engines of growth. Although, if the midsize SUV Tang PHEV/EV versions have high levels of demand, BYD might be tempted to give priority to the more profitable Tang.
Anyway, I believe the Yuan EV, which is said to have a battery upgrade to almost 60 kWh this year, will be a big hit, making it not only the best selling BYD, but possibly the first of the brand to cross 100,000 deliveries in one year.
3. BAIC (220,000–250,000) — Below the two well known e-mobility leaders, #3 Beijing Auto has a 220,000 delivery target for 2019, and considering it beat the 2018 target (150,000) and still has some 20,000 orders to fulfill, it shouldn’t be too hard for BAIC to beat the target. The question will be the product mix, with the small EC-Series possibly suffering from increased competition (the Yuan EV comes to mind…). BAIC should bet on the EU-Series sedan and the EX-Series crossover to secure the needed growth to achieve its target.
4. BMW (160,000) — The German brand should see more moderate growth in 2019, as the increased competition (Model 3, e-tron, Kona EV, e-Niro …) will no doubt make a dent in sales that even the new PHEVs (330e, X5 PHEV) won’t be able to fill. Fortunately, Chinese sales and the increased i3 volumes should come to the rescue and help sales to stay in the black.
5. Nissan (150,000) — Because the Japanese maker is highly dependent on the Leaf’s performance, it should have a tough first half of the year, with its largest market (Europe) only receiving the 62 kWh version in May and the Tesla Model 3 just arriving. Nissan should heavily discount the Leaf 40 kWh until then, trying not to lose too much ground.
After the arrival of the 62 kWh Leaf in large volumes, in the beginning of the second half of the year, it will be a different ball game. The hatchback could possibly reach some 15,000 sales per month, and with the help of the Chinese operations (Sylphy EV), we should see Nissan recover ground to the frontrunners.
6. Roewe (140,000) — Shanghai Auto’s most electric-friendly brand is set to continue on an accelerated growth path in 2019, with high hopes for the recent Marvel X, a midsize crossover with a 20-inch screen. That tops up what it is already a strong lineup, and should give a growth boost to the brand.
7. Renault (120,000) — Like its Japanese ally, Renault is heavily dependent on its Zoe hatchback, but there is less drama here, as demand for the current version is still growing. Expect continued growth throughout the first half of the year, with the second half seeing the new Zoe hitting 10,000 units/month. Add 15,000 Kangoo EV deliveries and you should see the French automaker hit at least 120,000 deliveries this year. Also of interest, the Kwid EV is said to land this year in China, but it probably won’t have time to deliver large volumes. In 2020, though…
8. Hyundai (110,000) — With over 30,000 reservations on the waiting list, just for the Kona EV, and a smart expansion strategy (delivering the hybrid Ioniq in untapped markets and then, if there is enough local demand, plug-ins), Hyundai (and on a smaller scale Kia too) has significantly more plug-in demand than supply. So, Hyundai’s #1 concern is getting enough batteries to meet the ever growing demand. Assuming it can get enough batteries, sales numbers should jump significantly this year, allowing the company to achieve a top 10 spot.
9. Volkswagen (105,000) — For some, this is probably the most surprising/debatable name on the list, because the volume-intended ID hatchback is only going to be delivered in large numbers next year, but strong investment in China (VW expects 400,000 plug-in vehicle registrations in 2020) needed to meet the local EV quotas should compensate for lagging sales elsewhere and pull total world sales just over the 100,000 threshold.
10. Chery (100,000) — The last brand is the one I am least sure about, as other Chinese OEMs, like JAC or JMC, might overcome it, but Chery targeted 200,000 plug-in vehicles sales in 2020, so it is serious about EVs. Although, its current sales champion, the eQ city car, could suffer from the competition from younger and more attractive models.
Again, here’s a BEV purist ranking.
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