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3 electric cars you’ve never heard of that dominated the market in China this year


China has not only become the biggest automotive market in the world, but also the biggest electric car market in the world. In 2016 alone, the country more than doubled its fleet of electric vehicles to now over 600,000 cars – more than the US or all European countries combined. Yet, you probably haven’t heard much about the electric cars sold in volumes in China.

Here we take a look at 3 of the country’s best-selling all-electric vehicles.

This year was a breakout year for Chinese plug-in vehicles, but it was partly because of the upcoming phase out of subsidies starting next month. Plug-in and all-electric vehicles were getting up to 100,000 yuan (~$16,000 USD) in government subsidies, but it will drop by roughly 20%. It prompted people and automakers to push for more sales in order to take advantage of the full subsidize, but sales are still expected to remain strong with still part of the credit available and new models coming to market.

Plug-in hybrids are still dominating the Chinese electric car market with BYD’s Tang and Qin still holding the two top spots with each over 20,000 deliveries in 2016.

But China’s EV market is different for its variety of EV models available. Over 60 models are available and 13 of which have sold over 10,000 units in 2016. In comparison, only 5 electric vehicles have sold more than 10,000 units in the US in 2016: Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi, and the Nissan LEAF.

While BYD’s plug-in hybrids dominate, some all-electric vehicles have made progress in 2016 and here we look at a few of them:

1 – BAIC EU260

BAIC is a state-owned automaker behind the joint-ventures of global car brands like Mercedes and Hyundai. Its EU260 model arrived in volume this year and held the top spot for all-electric vehicles with just over 18,000 deliveries as of last month.

The vehicle is equipped with a 41 kWh battery pack for 260 km (160 miles) of range. It’s important to note that China uses a version of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which is notoriously optimistic, to calculate the range of EVs.

At 254,900 Yuan (~$37,000 USD) before incentive, the vehicle can be purchased for the equivalent of about $22,000 USD after incentive – making it an attractive offer.

It is otherwise a very basic FWD sedan and we wouldn’t bet on it passing crash tests in other markets.

2 – BYD e6

BYD is probably the most well-known Chinese automaker primarily because of Warren Buffet’s investment in the company and the fact that it tentatively expanded to other markets. As previously mentioned, the company’s plug hybrids are topping the charts, but they are also selling EVs.

The BYD e6 is a compact crossover with originally a 60 kWh battery pack for about 300 km (186 miles) of range, but the company updated the powertrain with a 82 kWh pack this year for a range of up to 250 miles.

It helped the company significantly increase its sales. BYD delivered just over 7,000 e6 last year, but as of last month, the automaker delivered over 18,000 units in 2016.

With incentives, the price of the e6 can also dip below $30,000 USD.

3- Geely Emgrand EV

After BYD, Geely is probably the second most well-known Chinese automaker outside of China, especially since its acquisition of Volvo. 2016 was the first full year of production for its Emgrand EV, which is based on its gas-powered Emgrand sedan.

The electric version is equipped with a 45 kWh battery pack for 253 km (157 miles) of range. Geely managed to deliver 12,000 units in 2016.

Despite its affordable price similar to the other EVs mentioned in this article, the Emgrand EV is probably the most polished all-electric vehicle in the EV segment. The decent sales performance should encourage Geely to move forward with its EV programs and the company has been working with Volvo to develop a new EV platform architecture that will serve has the base for those vehicles programs.

We expect that Chinese electric automakers will step up their game in the next few years since the government is preparing to let foreign automaker build EVs in China without having to share technology with a local joint-venture. It’s likely to increase competition and consequently, the quality of EVs available in the Chinese market, which is one of the greatest polluters in the world and therefore, a priority to transition to electric propulsion.

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