Record Electric Vehicle Sales in China

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While the overall Chinese auto market is slowly picking up (+12% year over year in November), plugin vehicles are already on the fast lane, growing by 138% year over year (YoY) to a record 198,000 units.

This time, plugin hybrids (PHEVs) grew faster than full electrics (BEVs) — +164% versus +134%. Despite this uptick from plugin hybrids, however, BEVs still own 80% of the plugin vehicle (PEV) market.

Last month, plugin share reached a record 8.6% (7.2% BEV), pulling the 2020 share to 5.9% (4.7% BEV), a half percent increase that has finally pulled 2020’s figure over the 2019 result of 5.5%. With December set to create yet another record score, expect the year’s final PEV share to end north of the 6% mark. But this is only the beginning, as next year we should see a few months of two-digit market share, preparing for disruption to finally set in by 2022 … in the largest automotive market in the world.

And once we get to that point, then it’s game over for ICE (internal combustion engines).

Looking at November best sellers, we have 3 city EVs, confirming the return of small EVs to the spotlight, with the Wuling EV keeping its Best Seller title.

Here’s a closer look at November’s top 5 best selling plugin models:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

A big name for a small car, the Wuling EV scored 33,094 registrations last month, its 5th record score in a row, meaning that the production ramp-up is continuing, and expect the tiny four-seater to grow even further in December. The reason for this tremendous success? It is one of the cheapest EVs on the market ($4,200!!!), and yet, it’s not all that bad, as the SAIC–GM–Wuling joint-venture model can seat 4 people in a car that is a tad larger (2,917 mm / 114.8 in) than a Smart Fortwo EV.

Range is not brilliant (the smaller-battery version has a 9.2 kWh battery, and the top-spec version has a 13.8 kWh battery), and neither is the motor (27 hp), but it has only 665 kg curb weight to carry around and is highway capable. In order to have the $4,200 price, without subsidies, one can’t expect miracles. At this price level, the Wuling EV is a disruptive force in urban mobility, not only against 4-wheeled private transportation, but also against 2 and 3-wheelers. This EV is becoming a game changer in China, and should do the same elsewhere if it manages to expand to overseas markets.

#2 — Tesla Model 3

The poster child for electric mobility hit a record 21,606 units last month, with Tesla’s midsizer now almost exclusively made locally. Only 2 units came from Fremont, California. With December usually being the highest peak of the year in this market, will we see the Model 3 reach some 25,000 units in December?

Looking at expectations for next year, expect the Model 3 to build on its current numbers, growing moderately, because despite the internal competition of the new made-in-China Model Y, China’s mainstream market is still very much a sedan-friendly market, so its higher riding sibling will have less impact here than in SUV-crazed USA or hatchback-loving Europe, where the Model Y’s hatchback-disguised as SUV form will help it thrive.

 #3 — Great Wall ORA Black Cat (R1)

This vehicle is probably inspired by Deng Xiaoping’s famous quote: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” Great Wall decided to create a Cat Pack when it transformed its tiny R1 Smart-lookalike into the Black Cat, launched the R2 model (think Scion XB/Toyota Urban Cruiser) as the White Cat, and to lead the Pack, created the Good Cat, a chunky (and funky) compact hatchback (VW Golf sized).

Of those three, the Black Cat got 9,463 registrations in November, its second record score in a row. It seems the new name is providing a second youth to the small EV. In December, will it get … 10,000 mice deliveries?

#4 — BYD Han EV


BYD’s flagship model was 4th in November, having scored 7,842 registrations, its 4th record performance in a row. So, it looks the production ramp-up is still ongoing. Demand willing, the Han EV should log its first five-digit score next month.

One of the most competitive domestic EVs on the market, this flagship BYD is becoming a regular in the top 5, thanks to being as large as a Tesla Model S while costing only $32,800, less than the cheaper Tesla Model 3. But price doesn’t tell the whole story. With a cutting-edge 77 kWh LFP battery allowing it to reach 605 km (376 miles) based on the NEDC rating system (think 400 km / 250 miles in the real world), the Han EV is the whole package — good looks, competitive specs and features, and killer prices as the icing on the cake.

#5 — SAIC Baojun E-Series

Compared with the bare basics Wuling EV, the Baojun E-Series (E100/200/300) is the SGMW joint venture’s more hip and upmarket city model series, with demand now hitting record levels — 7,842 units were delivered in November. Access to the current EV subsidy added onto competitive pricing (CNY 93,900/$14,700) before subsidies, makes the E-Series appealing to young urban drivers as well as carsharing companies and other fleets.

Looking at the rest of the best sellers table for November, several other models hit best-ever scores, including the Li Xiang One — 4,646 registrations, which made it last month’s best selling PHEV and consolidated its status as the best selling large SUV and the most successful model coming from a local EV startup.

Speaking of local startups, the Weltmeister EX5 had another record month (3,018 registrations). BYD had 3 models with record scores. Besides the aforementioned Han EV, its plugin hybrid twin, the Han PHEV (2,623), continued its record streak. In fact, if you wanted to combine them, the two models clocked 10,105 registrations together. Additionally, the compact BYD e2 reached a record performance, its second in a row, with 2,670 registrations. These performances confirm a return to form from the Shenzhen automaker.

A final reference goes out to the surprise appearance of FAW’s baby Hongqi, the E-HS3, in #19, with the premium brand’s compact SUV scoring a record performance of 2,552 registrations. That could be a good sign for the upcoming full-size yacht SUV, the Hongqi E-HS9.

Looking at the 2020 ranking, while the Model 3 is the 2020 undisputed leader, below it, the Wuling Mini EV is already preparing next year’s assault on the Californian to try to take the Best Selling EV title in China.

This highlights the latest trend in China — city EVs returning to the spotlight, not only with the Wuling EV, but also the #5 Baojun E-Series, the #6 Great Wall Ora Black Cat, and the #7 Chery eQ. Yes, that means there were 4 city EVs in the top 7 in November.

But it wasn’t only city EVs rising up the table. Local EV startups continued climbing as well. The Li Xiang One rose to #8, securing the Best Selling PHEV title and almost putting the Best Selling Full Sizer title in the bag — the BYD Han EV is 7,000 units behind. Speaking of the flagship BYD, the big electric sedan was the Climber of the Month, jumping from #18 to #12. It seems prepared to storm through the top 10 in the last month of the year.

The much hyped Xpeng P7 also had reasons to celebrate, as the sedan climbed to #19. And the Changan Eado EV rejoined the table, at #20.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, the SGMW joint venture (15%) jumped into the leadership position! It barely surpassed BYD (also at 15%) and also passed up #2 Tesla (12% share). That was mostly thanks to the disruptive force of the Wuling Mini EV.

Below the podium, the race is tight. SAIC (6%, down 1 percentage point) is 4th, followed by #5 GAC (5%, down 1 point) and #6 Volkswagen (also at 5% market share).

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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 446 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes