Full speed ahead for China’s electric vehicles

UPDATED: A look at the data that could help predict growth in the market.

Hanrui Li
May 25, 2021

This article was updated on 15 June.

Since the Chinese government first announced in 2009 that it would provide subsidies for new energy vehicles (NEVs) buyers – which it defines as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles eligible for subsidies – the number of NEVs on Chinese roads has grown steadily over the years.  

The country is now targeting NEV sales to account for 20 per cent of the country's total vehicle sales by 2025.

In the following four charts, we look at some of the key data that could help predict the market's growth.

Road to recovery  

Production and sales of NEVs had been growing steadily until July 2019, when a trade war with the US and deep subsidy cuts hurt demand.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the start of 2020 worsened the decline – but only until July 2020, when China’s economy began to recover.

Since then, production and sales have bounced back – reaching record volumes by December 2020. The market remained active in the first quarter of this year. Can this momentum be sustained long enough to break last year’s record?

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Growing market share

Promoting the use of electric vehicles is one of the key drivers for China’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It is targeting NEVs to make up 20% of all new vehicle sales by 2025.

Our latest data show NEVs accounted for almost 11% of new passenger car sales as of May 2021, with commercial vehicles lagging far behind at about 2.1%. The potential for greening commercial vehicles is therefore huge.

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Battery vs Plug-in

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) dominate the Chinese market, selling four times as many Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV.)  

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This has accelerated demand for lithium-ion batteries. The chart below shows Chinese battery production growing rapidly year on year - with the Covid-19 pandemic barely making a dent.

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