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Global Plug-in Vehicle Sales for 2016

Worldwide plug-in vehicle sales in 2016 were 773,600 units, 42 % higher than for 2015. These include all global BEV and PHEV passenger cars sales, light trucks in USA/Canada and light commercial vehicle in Europe.
The total light vehicle market was up by 2 % to 90 million units. Plug-in vehicle sales grew 20 times faster than the overall market, but still captured a world market share of just 0.86 %. By the end of December the number of Plug-ins on the road passed the 2 million mark, 61 % of them are pure EVs and 39 % plug-in hybrids.
December also had the highest ever recorded monthly sales number, with 102 500 units in the 60 markets. Growth rates weakened in Q4, partly because they compare to artificially inflated 2015-Q4 sales. The 2nd reason is weakening growth for China in H2, amid lower purchase subsidies for 2017.
China has increasing its significance as a market and as a manufacturing base for “New Energy Vehicles”, the Chinese term for electrically chargeable vehicles. It stand for 45 % of all plug-in vehicles sold worldwide. In 2015, this figure was 35 %.

Entering the S-curve

Plug-in volumes have more than tripled since 2013 and continuing on last year’s growth rate of 42 % would mean 8 out of 10 cars sold being Plug-ins in 2030. Inconceivable today, not impossible for the future. The global picture shows just 0.85 % market share, but in some markets it is already a multitude of that: Norway had 24 % plug-in share in 2016, Netherlands 5 %, Sweden 3.2 %. The impact on the vehicle population is still hardly noticeable in most countries. The global motor vehicle population of cars and trucks has reached 1.4 billion and just 2 million of them can be plugged in.

Amid still tiny numbers, the whole sector develops at a rapid pace. Locations for charging have increased at least 10-fold, the number of available grid charged models has increased from 70 to 130 since 2013, incentive schemes became more effective. Battery cost have come down by 50 % in the last 3 years. Renewables have reached cost parity in electricity generation. Leading OEM have announced EV portfolios good for 25 % in their sales mix, for the next decade. Let alone Tesla’s giga-investments for the future EV industry.

Sales by Region

China is the growth motor for plug-in sales, +85 % compared to 2015. 351,000 “New Energy Vehicle” were sold in the passenger car category, on top of that nearly 160,000 commercial vehicles (not shown in this chart), mostly all-electric buses. The Chinese government is very serious about reducing GHG emissions, tormenting smog and traffic congestion. Policies are being developed to push NEV adoption to over 10 % share in new vehicle sales by 2020. December sales, usually the highest of the year, were lower than expected, though. The coming month will show if this slump was temporary.
The US has recovered from the weak development during 2015 (-4 %), posting +36 % for 2016 over 2015. The 3rd and 4th quarter were particularly strong with 43 % increase over 2015. Also 2017 opened higher than ever, with around 70 % more sales than in January 2016.
Europe struggled to continue on the 99 % growth rate of 2015. Many markets developed strong, but the incentive changes for PHEV in the Netherlands and EVs in Denmark darken the overall picture. PEV growth in Europe was just 13 % for the year, especially Q4 looked bleak compared to the inflated sales of Q4-2015.

Manufacturer Rankings and Shares

BYD is the leading make for plug-in vehicles in China, with nearly 30 % share of plug-in sales there. With high volume sales of their 2 PHEVs (Qin, Tang) and 4 EVs (EV300, e5, e6, Denza), BYD reached 102 500 sales in 2016, making it the world’s largest OEM for plug-in passenger cars & SUVs.
The VW Group (incl. Audi and Porsche) increased sales by just 7 % and lost rank 2 to Tesla. Tesla raised from #4 to #2, with sales 52 % over 2015, mainly thanks to the Model X SUV. It contributed with over 25 000 sales. BMW stayed on #4 by increasing sales of their Plug-in variants, which are now available in most of their series.
The picture shows the composition of plug-in sales by BEVs (EV) and PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid). Many OEMs are still heavily reliant on PHEV sales, which stood for 37 % in the global mix, down from 40 % in 2015. Counting only BEVs, Tesla is the undisputed #1, followed by Nissan, BYD and Chinese BAIC, winner of the year in terms of share gain.
And Toyota? Well, we have been tracking HEVs (non-chargeable) and FCVs (Fuel Cell Vehicles) for a while now. Toyota is all in on HEV and FCV (has announced BEVs for later), selling nearly 1.3 million Hybrids, which is 70% of global HEV sales. Their FCV commitment has resulted in 2040 Mirai sales, which is 90 % of all FCV sold worldwide in 2016.

Outlook for 2017

Global Plug-in model ranking 2016

The table shows the Tesla Model S as the world’s best-selling Plug-in and the best-selling EV overall. The Nissan Leaf came very close and surprised by worldwide sales of nearly 50,000 units, 8 % above 2015. Adding the 1,900 unit sales of the Chinese Venucia, a rebadged Leaf from the joint-venture with Dongfeng, the Leaf is the #1 of 2016. Record Leaf sales in Japan and in France are behind the development. The alliance paid off. Also the introduction of a larger battery did. Still, in other markets, sales gave tribute to the car’s age. It is in the market since 2011 and over 250,000 were sold during 6 years. The new Leaf is announced for 2017, supposedly a complete re-style with twice the range, but little is announced about the car itself and the sales start yet.
The BYD Tang PHEV, best-selling plug-in in China, 2016, became the #3, up 4 notches in the ranking. The Chevy Volt Gen-2 had its first full year of sales and climbed 5 places in the chart. The loser of the year is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the #3 of 2015. It lost 36 % of its volume, most of it in the Netherlands, where PHEV incentives were reduced for 2016. Another loser is the BYD Qin PHEV, the best seller in China 2015. Despite super-low prices, it lost 10,000 units in sales, now surrounded by new segment competitors and 2 further BYD entries, all of them BEVs. Most other models posted significant sales increases in 2016.

The 2016 result ended up below our initial expectations, mostly caused by slowing China growth. This presents one of the uncertainties in the 2017 outlook: How will the China market and the industry react to significantly reduced purchase subsidies. Other variables are the supply of new, affordable, long-range EVs, notably Chevy Bolt, 2nd generation Nissan Leaf and the already oversubscribed Tesla Model 3.
We like to stay half way optimistic on the outcome and predict 1.1 million worldwide plug-in sales for 2017, thereof 250 k in the US, 270k in Europe, 500k in China and 80k outside the aforementioned. This means another 42 % volume increase and a world light vehicle market share of 1.2 %. The sales split is expected to be 65 % BEV and 35 % PHEV.