Global Plugin Vehicle Volumes Fell 14% In 1st Half Of 2020, Better Than Auto Market’s 28% Drop

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Data for this article comes from our EV Volumes datacenter.

The 1st half of 2020 was overshadowed by the COVID-19 lockdowns, causing unprecedented declines in monthly vehicle sales from February onwards. For the first 6 months of 2020, the volume loss was 28% for the total light vehicle market, compared to the 1st half (H1) of 2019. EVs held up better and posted a loss of 14% year on year for H1, globally.

The regional developments were very diverse, though: In China, where the 2020 numbers compare to the still healthy sales of H1 2019, new energy vehicles (NEVs) lost 42% year over year in a car market that was down 20%. Lower subsidies and more stringent technical requirements were the main reasons. In the USA, the sales of plugin vehicles (EVs) followed the overall market trend.

Europe is the beacon of EV sales in 2020, with 57% growth in H1, in a vehicle market which declined by 37%. The rapid increases of EV sales started in September 2019 and gained further momentum this year. The WLTP introduction, together with changes in national vehicle taxation and grants created more awareness and demand for EVs. The industry geared up to meet the 95 gCO2/km target for 2020/2021. Over 30 new and improved BEV & PHEV models were introduced in the 2nd half of 2019 and production ramped up to high volume, despite a 1–2 month industry halt.

Six European countries have introduced additional green recovery incentives to promote higher EV sales, starting in June and July. Preliminary results for July give an indication of the effect on EV adoption in H2: The top 10 EV markets in Europe increased sales by over 200% combined. We expect very strong uptake for the remainder of the year, with sales passing the 1 million mark and monthly market shares of 7–10%.

The global BEV & PHEV share for H1 2020 was 3%, based on sales of 989,000 units. The smaller car markets continue to lead EV adoption. The share leader is Norway, as usual, where 68 % of new car sales were BEVs & PHEVs in H1 2020. Iceland came 2nd with 49% and Sweden 3rd with 26%. Among the larger economies, France leads with 9.1%, followed by the UK with 7.7%. Germany posted 7.6%, China 4.4%, Canada 3.3%, and Spain 3.2%. All other car markets with over 1 million total sales showed 3% or less for H1 2020.

Our expectation for 2020 is around 2.9 million worldwide fully electric (BEV) & plugin hybrid (PHEV) sales, unless a broad resurgence in COVID-19 forces important EV markets into severe lockdowns again.

The global EV fleet will reach 10.5 million by the end of 2020, counting light vehicles. Medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles add another 800,000 units to the global stock of plugin vehicles.

Europe Bucks the Trend

Supported by generous incentives and better supply of new and improved EVs, Europe became the clear winner of H1 2020 and is very likely to lead the growth during the entire year. The impact of COVID-19 on vehicle markets was most severe in Europe, but EV sales grew by 57%, reaching 6.7% light vehicle share, or 7.5% when counting only EU+EFTA markets. This compares to 2.9% market share in H1 2019, a formidable increase. Europe’s share in global BEV & PHEV sales increased from 23% to 42% within a year. More EVs were sold in Europe than in China for the first time since 2015. The largest volume growth contributors were Germany, France, and the UK. Except for Norway (-6%), all larger European EV markets posted gains this year.

China’s decline of NEV sales and shares started in July 2019 and continued through H1 of 2020, amplified by the market slump during February and March. For H1, the 2020 numbers compare to the 2019 period before subsidy reductions and further technical requirements strangled demand and supply. The losses amount to a dismal -42% on that basis. China stood for 39% of global BEV & PHEV volumes in H1, down from 57% in H1 2019. Preliminary July results indicate a recovery of NEV sales, with a 40% increase over July 2019.

The losses in Japan continued, with broad-based decreases, especially among importers.

USA volumes were held back by a 7 week shutdown of Tesla from end of March until mid-May, and there were few news from other OEMs. The new Tesla Model Y contributed with 12,800 units in H1. Imports from Europe posted high volume declines as European OEMs prioritized deliveries to Europe where they are more badly needed. The highlights for H2 volumes in North America will be the new Ford Mustang Mach-E and high-volume deliveries of the Tesla Model Y.

“Other” markets include Canada (21,000 sales, -19%), South Korea (27,000 sales, +40%) and many fast growing, smaller EV markets around the world.

second Global BEV and PHEV Volumes for 2020 H1 image

third Global BEV and PHEV Volumes for 2020 H1 image

Miles Ahead

The lead of the Tesla Model 3 is impressive, with over 100,000 more sales than the #2, Renault Zoe. Worldwide, one out of seven EVs sold was a Tesla Model 3. While sales took a beating in Europe and North America, it gained from local production in China, where it has become the best selling NEV model by a large margin. Global sales are now close to the leading fossil-fueled competitors.

With the sharp decline of China NEV sales, many Chinese entries have disappeared from the top 10. Remaining are the BYD Qin Pro and the GAC Aion S. Both are long-range BEV sedans, popular among private buyers, company pools, and ride-hailing companies.

The Renault Zoe was redesigned for MY2020, Europe deliveries started in Q4 2019, and sales where 48% higher than for the predecessor. The Nissan Leaf lost another 32% compared to last year, with losses in all regions, showing that Nissan is less and less committed to the Leaf. It is in good company: BMW i3 sales were 51% lower than last year — it will not have a successor and is left to fade away.

On the contrary, the soon-to-be-dropped e-Golf is still going strong (+35 % y/y), as Volkswagen pushed production and sales in the advent of the new ID.3. The Hyundai Kona EV is now made in the Czech Republic for European sales, which will improve availability in H2 of 2020

The first PHEV in the top 10 is the venerable Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, introduced in 2013, getting a facelift 2 times since then, and still one of the few PHEVs which can use DC fast chargers. Sales in H1 were 31% lower y/y. A successor model is uncertain at this time.

The Audi e-tron quattro has become the leader in the large SUV category, a position firmly held by the Tesla Model X since 2017. The global sales rollout began in Q4 of 2018 and sales have doubled compared to H1 2019. The Volkswagen Passat GTE’s volume is almost equally from the Europe version (56%, mostly station wagon) and the China-made version (44%, all sedans).

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José Pontes

Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewed the sales evolution of plug-ins on the EV Sales blog, allowing him to gain an expert view on where EVs are right now and where they are headed in the future. The EV Sales blog has become a go-to source for people interested in electric car sales around the world. Extending that work and expertise, Jose is also market analyst on EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.

José Pontes has 473 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes