Posted on December 13, 2017 by Charles Morris
Automotive business intelligence specialist JATO Dynamics has issued a new report on the global electric vehicle market, covering the first 3 quarters of 2017.
Above: Tesla's flagship sedan and SUV (Instagram: nikkithetesla)
Unsurprisingly, the figures show that Tesla continues to be the most popular electric vehicle brand in the world. According to JATO, Tesla sold approximately 57,000 Model S and Model X vehicles in “key markets” during this period (according to InsideEVs, Tesla’s stated global delivery figure is 73,214).
Above: Tesla has the highest EV penetration rate of any brand in Europe for January - September 2017 (Source: Cleantechnica via Jato Dynamics)
In the US, Model S has long been the top-selling plug-in vehicle, and Model X is currently #3 among pure EVs (the Chevy Bolt EV recently muscled its way into spot #2).
However, while Tesla enjoys near-universal brand recognition in the Western world, Chinese electric automakers are on the rise in terms of sales volume. The world’s best-selling electric model for the period covered by the JATO Dynamics study was the BAIC EC, which sold 38,000 units. And 6 of the top 10 EV brands in JATO’s “key auto markets” are based in China.
Above: Although Tesla was the best-selling EV brand worldwide, China's BAIC EC was the best selling EV model for January - September 2017 (Source: Cleantechnica via Jato Dynamics)
Plug-in vehicle sales are up all over the world: JATO’s report found year-on-year growth of 21% in North America (~67,000 units); 24% in Japan and Korea (~19,000 units); 42% in Europe (~100,000 units); and a whopping 126% in China (~227,000 units). By every metric, China is now by far the top plug-in vehicle market in the world.
“2017 represents a turning point in the adoption of electric cars,” write JATO’s analysts. “China’s ever-expanding car market is crucial to the future of the electric vehicle. If EVs become a realistic mainstream choice, a likely contributing factor will be the emphasis the Chinese market has placed on electric vehicle technology. The Government has introduced policies to push EVs, such as car purchase restrictions in large cities and subsidies for domestically produced EVs and PHEVs. In a further development, global manufacturers are now entering the Chinese market, as fully electric vehicles will earn more credits than plug-in hybrids under the country’s new Carbon Credit Program, which will come into effect in 2019.”
Above: China's EV sales were up 126% year-over-year for the January - September 2017 time period (Source: Cleantechnica via Jato Dynamics)
Change comes fast these days, and the rise of the Chinese manufacturers has happened at lightning speed. “China has quickly taken the top spot as the world’s biggest EV market,” says JATO, “rapidly outselling other more advanced markets such as the US and Europe. In comparison, it took decades for the country to outsell them on traditional internal combustion engines.”
The growing dominance of the Asian dragon is not news to those who closely follow the EV market. It’s perhaps the most important of several converging trends that will soon lead to the demise of the internal combustion engine. The global auto giants are determined to stave off the transition to electromobility as long as they can, but they are fully aware of the importance of China’s EV market - some are already developing multiple electric models that they have no intention of selling in their home countries. However, for several reasons, Tesla is poised to be the leading foreign brand in the Chinese auto market.
Above: China's EV volume dominates worldwide rankings with 227,000 EVs sold for January - September 2017 (Source: Cleantechnica via Jato Dynamics)
So far, Chinese EVs are almost exclusively sold in China, but some of the companies do have global ambitions. BYD is having impressive success in the US with electric buses (built at its California factory), and has been talking about launching a passenger EV in the US for years, although so far it hasn’t managed to do so.
CleanTechnica’s James Ayre raised an interesting point: “What would happen if China-based manufacturers were to release a compelling, affordable plug-in electric vehicle on the global market?” Chinese brands are unlikely to be able to offer the prestige of a Mercedes or a BMW - much less a Tesla - but a plain, practical cheap EV might just catch on, especially if, as some predict, Transportation as a Service becomes the norm.
Above: Tesla's factory in Tilburg, Netherlands (Instagram: pantheon.one)
If the Chinese could manage to crack the US and/or European auto markets, CleanTechnica predicts that their success would come at the expense of legacy auto manufacturers such as VW, GM, PSA and Renault. “That being the case,” writes Mr. Ayre, “shouldn’t North American and European auto firms be rapidly electrifying?”