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China’s electric vehicle market, a rising global leader in EV technology

China’s Electric Vehicle (EV) market is poised for exponential growth, fueled by clean energy initiatives and robust government backing. With an estimated revenue of US$ 292.1 billion in 2023, the market is set to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.38% from 2023 to 2028.

In terms of vehicle types, EVs can be categorized into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Revenue in the PHEV is projected to reach US$ 99.86 billion in 2023, with a CAGR of 1.5% from 2023 to 2028. On the other hand, revenue in the BEV segment is expected to reach US$ 192.2 billion in 2023, with a higher CAGR of 8.61% during the same period. This indicates a stronger growth trajectory for fully electrified vehicles, reflecting the increasing consumer preference for all-electric models.

China’s commitment to the 2060 carbon neutrality plan and government subsidies play a crucial role in stimulating the purchase of electric vehicles. These factors encourage both consumers and manufacturers to embrace electric mobility and contribute to the growth of the EV market. With the ongoing trend of EV adoption, the future development of the EV industry looks promising both in domestic and international markets.

2016-2028E Revenue of China’s EV market by category
Graph Source: Statista, designed by daxue consulting, 2016-2028E Revenue of China’s EV by category

Dominance in the China’s EV production landscape

China is set to become a global leader in EV production, with projections indicating that by the end of 2025, 50% of car sales in China could be EVs. This would make China the first major economy to reach such a milestone. In the Chinese EV market, there is a vibrant and competitive landscape, with over 94 brands offering more than 300 EV models at different price points. Local brands, including BYD, Wuling, Chery, Changan, and GAC, dominate the market, holding an impressive 81% share in 2022. The presence of successful EV start-ups like Nio, Xpeng, Neta, AITO, IM Motors, Zeeker, Aiways, and Livan adds to the market’s dynamism, fostering intense competition and reinforcing China’s dominance in EV production.

2022 China’s market share of EV brands
Graph Source: Statista, designed by daxue consulting, 2022 China’s market share of EV brands

BYD, a Chinese carmaker, has emerged as a dominant force in the China EV market, surpassing Tesla and capturing nearly 30% of the Chinese EV market share. BYD had an early shift of its strategy from internal combustion engine production to electric motor development, gaining a first-mover advantage in the domestic market and is already a market leader in the Chinese EV market. The CEO of BYD, Wang Chuanfu has set ambitious goals, stating that the company aims to achieve a trillion RMB in sales and dominate China’s electric car market by 2025.

Government support and regulations fueling China’s EV revolution

Government support and regulations have played a significant role in shaping the Chinese EV market. At first, China invested more on renewable energy mainly driven by national security concerns. The country aimed to reduce its reliance on imported oil and natural gas, recognizing the potential vulnerability of such energy sources during times of crisis..

China has implemented various regulations to promote the adoption and production of electric vehicles. Initiatives such as the Development Plan (2012-2020) set ambitious targets for annual EV manufacturing, while the Administrative Provisions (2017) established qualification requirements for manufacturers and EVs, focusing on technical standards and safety inspections.

In addition to regulations, government support has been instrumental in stimulating EV purchases. China’s commitment to the 2060 carbon neutrality plan has created a strong impetus for the adoption of EVs. Government subsidies and benefits, such as lower taxes on EVs and subsidies for low-emission bus fleets. In September 2022, China’s Ministry of Finance (MOF), the State Taxation Administration (STA), and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced purchases of new energy vehicles (NEVs) that occur between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023, will continuously be exempted from vehicle purchase tax.

Impact and dynamics in the competitive landscape

While the government has focused on building charging infrastructure with plans to construct enough charging stations for 20 million electric vehicles by 2025, there have also been instances where regulations and the entry of international players have impacted domestic companies. For example, the announcement of the “Regulations on the Administration of Investment in the Automobile Industry” and the establishment of Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory had an adverse effect on NIO’s plans to cooperate with the Shanghai government to build a production plant in Shanghai Jiading. This highlights the complex dynamics and competition within the Chinese EV market, where regulatory changes and the entry of global players can influence the trajectory of domestic brands.

Technological advancements in the China’s EV market

China has emerged as a global leader in technological advancements and innovation in the EV industry, particularly in the areas of autonomous vehicles, rail Evs, and electric motorcycles due to the early investment in mining and battery production compared to other countries. It has come to dominate the global supply chain for batteries, leaving the rest of the world dependent on China.

China’s dominance in the EV industry extends beyond autonomous vehicles. The country has been at the forefront of developing new alternatives to conventional lithium-ion batteries. The popularity of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) chemistries has soared, with around 95% of LFP batteries for electric LDVs (light-duty vehicles) being utilized in vehicles produced in China. Additionally, China is actively establishing supply chains for lithium-free sodium-ion batteries, with significant manufacturing capacity already in operation or announced. This focus on battery technology showcases China’s determination to enhance the performance and efficiency of EVs.

In terms of autonomous vehicles, by 2023, Level 3 AV are expected to enter the market, capable of driving themselves under certain conditions with occasional human intervention. While initial sales may be modest, a surge in demand is anticipated from 2026 onwards, reflecting China’s ambitious commitment to advancing autonomous driving technology.

Not only the advancement of technology can be seen in EV, but also 2-wheel vehicles as well. With the rise of smart features, 2-wheel vehicles now have IoT connectivity, GPS tracking, various unlocking methods, AI-assisted battery management, and real-time updates. These technologies provide comprehensive upgrades, improving safety, convenience, and user experience.

Navigating challenges and seizing opportunities in China’s EV market

The Chinese electric vehicle market poses challenges and opportunities for various stakeholders. A major challenge is intense price competition among over 40 carmakers in the domestic market. This competition, driven by slumping auto sales, has led to unprecedented price cuts and unsettled the market. However, it also presents an opportunity for consumers to purchase more affordable electric and gas-powered vehicles.

On the other hand, the development of NEVs, including passenger cars and commercial vehicles, shows promise and offers growth opportunities. The Chinese government’s plans for 100% electrified public transit in over 30 cities and the increasing adoption of electric buses indicate a bright future for the industry. With electric vehicle sales accounting for a significant portion of cities without vehicle increment limits, there is still room for growth in the Chinese market.

Moreover, the Chinese government’s efforts to strengthen intellectual property (IP) rights create opportunities for domestic brands in overseas markets. Laws like “The Foreign Investment Law” demonstrate China’s commitment to IP protection, which can alleviate concerns for foreign investors. This favorable environment encourages international brands in a way that it is no longer required to partner with local players to enter the automotive market.

As the demand for electric vehicles increases, foreign automakers are racing to tap into this market. BYD’s order to supply electric buses to Bogota highlights the potential for foreign automakers to establish themselves both domestically and internationally.

Consumer adoption and evolving trends in China’s EV Market

Consumer adoption and changing trends in China’s EV market are influenced by factors such as practicality, affordability, and the preferences of different demographic groups. Wuling’s success in China can be attributed to its practical and affordable mini-commercial vehicles, particularly the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV. This compact EV positioned itself as a practical vehicle for daily commuting, offering attractive colors and affordability. By focusing on emotional appeal, current color trends, and the preferences of young or female customers, Wuling differentiated itself from competitors and gained traction among cost-conscious buyers.

Furthermore, the entry of non-automotive companies like Alibaba into the Chinese EV market highlights the evolving landscape. Alibaba Group, in partnership with SAIC Motor, introduced two electric models under the IM brand, catering to the growing demand for electric sedans and SUVs. This diversification of players in the market indicates a shift in consumer preferences and the willingness of non-traditional automotive companies to capitalize on the rapidly growing EVs industry.

Alibaba X SAIC Motor
Data Source: IM Motors, Alibaba X SAIC Motor

As the market evolves, consumer expectations are also changing. While the initial wave of EVs focused on features like autonomous driving functions and large built-in screens and karaoke systems, there is now a shift towards prioritizing safety, performance, and durability. This shift presents an opportunity for legacy automakers, such as Volkswagen AG, to leverage their experience and expertise to meet the evolving demands of consumers. By focusing on these key aspects, legacy automakers can gain an advantage and capture the attention of consumers who value reliability and performance in their EVs.

From China’s dominance to innovation and evolving consumer demands

  • The country’s commitment to the 2060 carbon neutrality plan creates a strong impetus for EV adoption. However, regulatory changes and the entry of global players can impact domestic brands, leading to a complex competitive landscape, including the price competition in the domestic market.
  •  The country dominates the global supply chain for batteries and has been developing alternatives to conventional lithium-ion batteries, such as lithium-iron-phosphate chemistries and lithium-free sodium-ion batteries.
  • By the end of 2025, it is projected that 50% of car sales in China could be electric vehicles, making it the first major economy to achieve such a milestone.
  • Local brands hold 81% of China’s EV market, with companies like BYD outweighing the sales of Tesla.
  • The commitment to IP protection, demonstrated through laws like “The Foreign Investment Law,” alleviates concerns for foreign investors. This favorable environment encourages international brands to enter the automotive market independently, breaking the traditional reliance on local partnerships.
  • Consumer expectations in China’s EV market are evolving beyond flashy features to prioritize safety, performance, and durability. This shift presents an opportunity for legacy automakers, like Volkswagen AG, to leverage their expertise and meet the changing demands of consumers.

 Author: Howard Lai

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