Growth has been particularly impressive over the last three years, even as the global pandemic shrank the market for conventional cars and as manufacturers started grappling with supply chain bottlenecks. In 2019, 2.2 million electric cars 1 were sold, representing just 2.5% of global car sales. In 2020, the overall car market contracted but electric car sales bucked the trend, rising to 3 million and representing 4.1% of total car sales.
In 2021, electric car sales more than doubled to 6.6 million, representing close to 9% of the global car market and more than tripling their market share from two years earlier. All the net growth in global car sales in 2021 came from electric cars.
Several factors underpin the market’s dynamism. The government extended electric car subsidies for a further two years after the pandemic broke out, albeit with a planned reduction of 10% in 2021, and 30% in 2022. The growth in 2021 sales despite the scaled-back subsidies suggests China’s EV market may be starting to mature. But it also could reflect an overheated by customers rushing to secure subsidies at 2021 levels before they declined at the start of 2022. Another important factor is the expanded range of small car offerings.
The tiny Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is not eligible for subsidies but was still among the bestselling models in China last year, offering an affordable entry point to the market for new customers. Overall, the Chinese electric car market looks set for further growth in 2022, driven by the combined effects of consumer preferences for the new model offerings, residual national subsidies and continued preferential treatment for EVs at the local level (local subsidies, exclusion from city-level purchase limitations).