Zooming down the expressway of global automotive dominance, China emerges as the undisputed leader, churning out 2.5 times more cars than the US and claiming the throne as the world’s largest automobile market. Fueled by a fervent commitment to energy conservation and security, China’s electric vehicle (EV) market is now a sizzling cauldron of innovation.
In this electrifying landscape, a fierce showdown unfolds as both foreign and homegrown automakers vie for supremacy not only in China but on the global stage. While Tesla commands the headlines with its record-breaking sales and Elon Musk’s ascent to the throne of the world’s richest, a battalion of more than 60 Chinese electric vehicle brands is stepping into the spotlight, challenging the established giant.
As the Tesla phenomenon sparks both admiration and controversy, it’s time to spotlight China’s rising stars. Join us as we unveil the top electric car brands shaping the future of Chinese innovation and electrifying the global automotive arena.
What Are The Top Electric Car Brands In China?
While home automakers are busy catering to the domestic market, BYD (Build Your Dreams) has ventured beyond. BYD is one of the largest car makers in China. Headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, this automaker deals with every car type, from internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to hybrids and electric vehicles.
But where it shines most is the making and selling of electric vehicles or New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) as China calls them. Standing just a tier below Tesla in hourly sales, BYD sells 26 EVs per hour. It’s no wonder why it ranked no.1 in global EV sales for three consecutive years since 2015.
Backed by Warren Buffet, BYD’s portfolio is huge.
BYD’s top electric cars are the Han and Tang. The Han is a mid-size luxury sedan that goes head-to-head with the Tesla Model 3. This EV is available in an all-electric variant and a hybrid variant. Although it just entered the market in July, this EV is already giving its Chinese rivals a run for their money.
The Han can reach 69mph in 3.9 seconds. It boasts a range of 376 miles thanks to a 76.9kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery. With a starting price of $40,000, it comes in the affordable EV range.
On the other hand, the Tang is the most popular BYD EV, having already ranked as the world’s no.1 plug-in hybrid in 2016. The all-electric premiered in 2018, featuring an 82.8kWh battery, 313 miles of range, and 62mph in 4.2 seconds. The Tang is similar to the Tesla Model X in size but matches the Tesla Model Y performance.
NIO Is one of China’s top EV specialists. You may already have heard about this brand since its stock has been trading in the NYSE since 2018. Not only that, this manufacturer has a successful Formula E team, and its NIO EP9 supercar held the Nurburgring German circuit record for two years.
NIO primarily sells its cars in China, but it will be introducing its lineup in Europe in 2021, including the ES6 SUV. The seller has already announced the release of the ES8 SUV and ET7 saloon in Norway in 2021. The ET7 sedan is set to challenge Tesla as it will feature a 150kWh battery pack allowing it to have an NEDC range of 1000+km.
NIO is now a top contender in the EV industry and will continue to compete on the same level as BYD and soon Tesla.
XPENG (Xiaopeng Motors) is exclusively an electric vehicle company. Founded in 2014, this brand has Chinese and International investors, including He Xiaopeng, UCWeb and former Alibaba executive, Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun, Alibaba, IDG Capital, and Foxconn. It’s currently valued at $37bn.
XPENG also has a subsidiary in the US, Xmotors.ai. Its top-selling EV in the US & Europe is the XPENG G3, a long-range smart SUV with a 328-mile range and featuring a 65kWh battery pack. Being cheaper than a Tesla is a plus since it’s capable, substantial, spacious, and most of all, an intelligent system rivals Tesla’s autopilot.
The company’s second model, the P7, is an electric saloon that has been selling in China since June 2020. With a starting cost equivalent to £35,000, XPENG will upgrade this vehicle with XPENG’s Navigation Guided Pilot (NPG) equal to Tesla’s Autopilot.
BAIC is not widely known outside China. But it prides itself on selling 18 EVs per hour behind Tesla and BYD. This brand’s halo EV is the Arcfox GT electric supercar designed by Walter de Silva expected to enter the European market. The ECF SUV is its top-selling EV also set to be sold in Europe. The ECF is a pure electric SUV with a maximum power of 160kW and 372 miles of range.
However, BAIC has not yet made its plans official about entering the European and American markets.
5. SAIC Motor
SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd is one of the big four state-owned Chinese automakers. The company specializes in vehicles, parts, and financing. When it comes to the sales of EVs, SAIC currently has the cheapest electric cars globally, with the Wuling HongGuang Mini selling for only 28,800 Yuan ($4,465).
According to a BBC report, the sales of this budget car are outselling Tesla Model 3 by two to one with its sales almost doubling that of Tesla Model 3 in January 2021. The EV has a top speed of 62mph and an estimated range of 120 miles.
As the world’s largest car market, China is ramping up efforts to increase its EV sales. SAIC is just one of the top-performing brands positioned to take China to its 2030 vision of having more than 50% of its vehicle sales be electric vehicles.
Based in Hangzhou, China, Geely Auto Group is a leading automaker. It’s a subsidiary of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Although the brand does not have any EVs in its name outside of China, the company already has various sub-brands worldwide. These include Polestar, Volvo, Lotus, Malaysian carmaker company Proton, and the LEVC taxi company.
People already love Volvo EVs like the XC40, and Polestar is co-owned by Volvo cars and, by extension, Geely, its parent company.
It’s important to note that Polestar 2 is manufactured in China. This 5-door liftback is not by any means cheap. It illustrates the Chinese electric car industry at the height of manufacturing.
More automakers from China are entering the world to be top contenders alongside Tesla. In fact, BYD and BAIC came in second and third, respectively, as the best-selling EV brands in 2019. It’s also worth mentioning that almost half of the world’s top 10 EV automakers are Chinese.
As a result, these Chinese companies are not just big in China. They have made a name for themselves in the US and European markets. Even then, foreign brands like BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Hyundai bring intense competition into the Chinese market and the world.
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.