Plug-In Hybrids Preferred Over BEVs In China?

AUG 21 2015 BY MARK KANE 47

Tesla Model S In China

Tesla Model S In China

We used to see pure electric car sales at significantly higher levels than plug-in hybrids in China.

In the first half of this year, BEVs hold nearly 60% of plug-in car sales.

The situation is going to change. According to Chinese sources, plug-in hybrids are more preferred by customers. One of the reasons behind that is that there are not enough available charging stations in China.

“About 14% of respondents would prefer to buy a PHEV for its longer run time and lower reliance on charging facilities, while only 8% prefer BEVs, despite the fact that sales of BEVs almost doubled those of PHEVs in the first half of 2015, according to a report released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) and Nielsen.”

Answer about where China is going could be delivered by BYD, which recently introduced on the market a new plug-in hybrid SUV – Tang. If Tang will repeat success of Qin (4,000+ sales a month) PHEVs will likely prevail.

For the first month of the second half of the year, the Qin still rules all by a considerable margin – 4,030 sales in July; meanwhile also BYD managed to get out 723 Tangs out in its first full (albeit fractured) month on the market.

While not all of the numbers are fully accounted for July, CAAM and Nielsen could be onto something, as PHEVs held a ~51% advantage over BEVs during the month.


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47 Comments on "Plug-In Hybrids Preferred Over BEVs In China?"

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How many models of PHEVs and BEVs are available across China?
ie: is this just a reflection to the EV market in China being fairly young?

In the US we saw similar situation in 2012 as there were more PHEV choices than BEV models. In 2014/15 the number of BEV model choices has increased, so sales of PHEVs & BEVs are more balanced … with BEV sales out numbering BEVs in a number of states.

There is actually quite a few models of plug-ins, at least 19 or so have sold at least 100 copies. (One could say more (or less) depending on your definition of what a ‘real’ EV is)

What you are suggesting about “PHEVs vs BEVs in regards to early availability in the US” before balancing later, is actually happening in China, but in reverse.

The BEV is a fundamentally a very easy thing to build, so the vast majority of available plug-ins for China have been/are all-electrics.

It is only the arrival of BYD PHEVs to the market that has turned the tide (well, and the SAIC Roewe 550 too). Those 3 account for essentially all the PHEV sales in the country…and half of all plug-in sales in July.

Thanks @Jay

Like USA, China is a large market across many regions. This makes it hard to understand variations in each region.

No problemo,

“Hard to understand” is an understatement… China is a hot mess trying to follow, (=


There are over 35 different BEV models list for sale in China, None of the BEV models included in monthly report are listed for sale in China. Not even Tesla Model S is listed for sale in China even though we know it’s sold there. The advertised performance of some of Chinese models, like the BYD e6, puts the models sold in the United States to shame. If the Chinese electric car manufacturers ever get a foot hold in the the United States they may cause real trouble for the American EV manufacturers.


You appear to be assuming that the specs listed for Chinese make cars have a close relationship with the truth. Given the reality of retail marketing in China, which is a case of caveat emptor (“buyer beware!”) on steroids, that is not a good assumption.

The one real attempt at selling a Chinese make car in the USA, the Coda sedan, quickly lead to bankruptcy of the company. The Coda was overpriced yet made with inferior, cheap materials, and had seriously outdated styling. BYD has the potential to do much better, but first they have to stop illegally using unlicensed patents.

Let’s be very clear: The ability to compete in China’s new car market, basically a third-world market, vs. the ability to compete in very competitive first-world markets such as the USA, the EU, and British Commonwealth countries, all with much higher safety standards and the requirement of respecting international patents, is a difference like night and day.

Marshal G

I believe this year China became the world’s largest market of luxury vehicles.


I thought I read that there was already fleets of BYD e6 taxis operating the United States but I can’t find that reference now. I do know that lists the BYD e6 as one of the vehicles that qualifies for the full $7,500 tax credit so there must be a few in the country. The BYD web site says the e6 has a 61 kWh battery, over twice the size of the 2016 Leaf SL. The BYD e6 looks it will be a real player if BYD can ever get a service network set up.


I found it. Uber in Chicago has a fleet of BYD e6s.

It’s true that a limited number (11?) of BYD EVs were imported to the USA and allowed to be sold to fleets, but BYD’s attempt to spread that to more general sales was blocked. If my understanding is correct, that only happened as a “test market” arrangement; BYD hasn’t sold any since the initial batch. I don’t know a lot of details on that, so I’m not sure why sales of the BYD EV were blocked. Illegal use of unlicensed patents? Failure to pass rigorous U.S. safety testing? Some of both? I dunno. According to Wikipedia: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As of 19 February 2013, there were 11 units of BYD e6 reaching US from China and then heading to BYD North America headquarters located in Los Angeles. However the purpose of this fleet has not been officially proclaimed. In May 2013, BYD announced that the e6 will be sold in the US only to fleet consumers, and instead of making the car available to the general public, the company will focus on electric bus sales in North America. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ More details on the subject here: * * * * * Please understand that most or all remarks I make about Chinese… Read more »

I don’t think that we can justify the statement that the BYD e6 is “blocked” in the United States. The articles on Uber and BYD are just a few months old and there does appear to be at least one authorized BYD dealer in the States, Green Wheels out of Chicago. So it looks like the e6 is still being sold in U.S. I think the real BYD issue is that they only want to sell fleets of cars outside of China, not individual cars. There are BYD e6 taxi fleets all over the world. At the BYD current stage of development selling fleets makes sense so that they don’t have to support an extensive service network.

Green Wheels only has one e6 in their inventory, it’s a 2012 model selling for $20,000. A 2015 e6 sells for about $50,000 before incentives. Considering the e6 is the only EV currently sold in the U.S. with anything close to a 150 mile range other than Tesla the $50,000 price tag can be justified.

I’ve never seen an e6 so I don’t know if I would buy one but the e6 gives us another option and options are always a good thing.


You’re right, “blocked” was an overstatement on my part. I don’t know why BYD hasn’t expanded sales of the B6 in the USA. A few years back, it was reported that BYD’s attempt to sell EV buses to cities in California was blocked because of issues with unlicensed patents. But BYD is now selling buses, so apparently they’ve fixed that problem. I don’t know whether or not there has been a similar issue with the e6.

Dan, thanks for the info re the one BYD dealership here in the USA. I knew BYD was selling city bus EVs; I wasn’t aware they were still trying to sell e6’s. Of course, “one left in stock” may indicate nothing more than that they still have one unit left from the initial batch of 11(?) that were sent here to be test marketed.


Edit: I wrote:

“…BYD hasn’t expanded sales of the B6…”

That should be e6, not B6.


What unlicensed patents would that be?

no comment

just so you know…there is no such thing as an “international patent”; patent rights are granted on a country by country basis.


That’s true.

The problem comes when a Chinese manufacturer, such as BYD, attempts to sell a product in a country in which a patent is still in force, but BYD has reverse engineered the vehicle (or parts of the vehicle) to closely copy parts which are protected by patents in the country where BYD is trying to sell.

Using the term “international patent” was my shorthand for this situation; my apologies if this was misleading.

It’s true that there is no general international patent protection, not even in first-world countries, as there is with copyright protection and the Berne Convention. Patent protection has to be filed for, and awarded, on a country by country basis.

Even China does have laws protecting patents. But Chinese courts almost never enforce intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, and trademarks) of a foreign country against a Chinese company. Or at least, that’s my understanding.

no comment

in the U.S. most new *EVs are PHEVs. considering upcoming new automobile introductions, the only company for which the number of BEV exceeds the number of PHEVs is tesla, which is exclusively BEV. but that is because tesla can’t compete against established auto makers in the PHEV space, so their ability to compete is dependent upon convincing people to adopt BEVs.

i suspect that the *EV situation in china is different from that in the U.S. so PHEV adoption probably would be more influenced by lack of charging facilities in china.


I think you need to look at the statistics. All you have to do is look at monthly scorecard to see that BEVs are out selling PHEVs in the United States. My calculations show that ratio is 65% BEV for 2015.

no comment

the reason why auto makers (other than tesla) are introducing more PHEVs is because the auto makers want to expand the market for *EVs beyond EV enthusiasts and early adopters. the model s, for example, is at a price point that makes it a low volume automobile within the context of the market for automotive products.

And, yet, other auto manufacturers offer similar priced and performance vehicles (of which Tesla is eating their lunch).


Doesn’t Nissan sells more BEVs than PHEVs? Does it sell any PHEVs?

no comment

you’re right, i forgot about nissan. they only have one car (although they have several BEVs that they sell in europe under the renault brand).


More BEV than PHEV is rather a sign of a not matured market (or heavy incentives pushing in that direction).

PHEVs will heavily outweigh BEVs during the next decade when EV sales will start to grow to at least a few procent of the market.

Somewhere between 2025 and 2030 I believe BEVs will permanently overtake PHEVs in sales again.


Mikael said:

“PHEVs will heavily outweigh BEVs during the next decade when EV sales will start to grow to at least a few procent of the market.”

Whether BEV or PHEV sales will grow faster remains to be seen. Back around 2010 I thought PHEV sales would predominate for a decade or two, until battery tech is more mature and PEVs can be charged much faster. But that hasn’t been the case; BEVs are selling about as well as PHEVs, or in some cases even better.

It appears that within 2-3 years, there will be at least three BEVs on the market with a range of 150+ miles. I don’t see any PHEV makers talking about a similar increase in range. So it may well be that the BEV market is going to take a larger and larger share of the PEV market.

I keep hoping that some EV makers will start offering PHEVs with an electric range bigger than the Volt’s, but nobody seems interested in even matching the Volt’s EV range. If that remains the case, then I suspect the market for PHEVs will grow much, much slower than the market for BEVs.


The big difference is that the BEV market needs to be created.
Where the PHEV market already exists since it’s only be an extension of the ICE market and can penetrate all those 80 million cars sold anywhere anytime at ease.

As said the difference will show a lot more when the percentage of plug-in sales goes up from just including innovators…even in the early adopter stage it will show clearly.

Jeff Songster

The sooner they upgrade their infrastructure to allow more casual charge points around their cities… this will change.

Londo Bell

What most here seems NOT to notice is this:

“One of the reasons behind that is that there are not enough available charging stations in China.”

Now here come the question:

“So what are the PHEV owners using to charge their PHEVs (most of the time)?”

IOW, not helping the environment a bit, and gasoline usage will just keep rising.

no comment

what PHEV allows you to do (depending upon implementation) is recharge when you can while still being able to drive when you can’t.


Londo Bell said:

“So what are the PHEV owners using to charge their PHEVs (most of the time)?”

“IOW, not helping the environment a bit, and gasoline usage will just keep rising.”

This is another example of “The perfect driving out the good.” This isn’t a binary, either/or situation. In general, PHEVs replace some gasoline-powered miles with electric miles. Some is better than none.

Another false binary choice is suggesting that if drivers are not offered the choice of buying PHEVs, they’ll choose BEVs instead. But many, perhaps most, of those would choose gasmobiles instead. This is especially true in China, where it’s so difficult for the average citizen to find a place to charge his car.

Let us choose to look at PHEVs as a glass-half-full, rather than a glass-half-empty.

Londo Bell

Not sure if we’re talking about the same thing here, but I’m referring to the fact that most owners will be charging their PHEV with gasoline, instead of a plug, due to the lack of charging stations in China.

Think of it as those US Volts by P&G(?) who were given gas cards to “fuel” their vehicles, instead of plugging at home or work, which resulted in extremely low battery usage (battery was rarely recharged) and mpg when those were sold @ used vehicles.


Londo — I think you are confusing a lack of public fast charging stations, with a lack of home charging. The two are not at all the same.

The leased Volts that ran on gas all the time was due to a problem with the US tax code, not with a lack of outlets and charging stations.

Companies can’t expense charges without specific, itemized receipts. That means most companies won’t reimburse you for your home electricity to recharge your take-home vehicle.

If they do, it is considered a Benefit instead of an Expense by the IRS. Instead of reducing their tax burden, the company suddenly has to pay payroll tax on it, as if it were part of your income.

Unless you have some insight where China’s tax system is the same as ours, I don’t think US tax code problems are an issue in China.


Nix said:

“Companies can’t expense charges without specific, itemized receipts. That means most companies won’t reimburse you for your home electricity to recharge your take-home vehicle.”

On the contrary, companies generally reimburse driving mileage where required for the job by the mile, not by amount of gasoline or electricity consumed. Or at least, they used to do it that way, and they certainly could again. A flat 17¢ per mile (for example) will work just as well for EV drivers as for gasmobile drivers.

Londo Bell

Now I don’t even understand how it has stretched to the tax system at this point.

My point is very simple. Not with the tax system. Not with anything else. But the reality – the lack of charging infrastructure in China, either in public places or in condominiums/flat/apartments, have pretty much made these PHEVs recharge using gasoline, and contribute equally to air pollution as other ICE vehicles, period.

The RESULT of such action is that there’s 0 benefit in getting a PHEV, because gasoline use is not really minimized.

Such action is the same as those Volts running purely on gasoline without being plugged in at all.

Nothing to do with BEV sales better than PHEV, or when the tides turn, or which technology is better.

Conclusion – there’s NO POINT / NO BENEFIT in selling PHEV in a place where charging infrastructure is lacking…


Londo Bell said:

“Conclusion – there’s NO POINT / NO BENEFIT in selling PHEV in a place where charging infrastructure is lacking…”

You have a point, but you’re overstating it. The ability to charge PEVs in China is not completely lacking; it’s just that the opportunities are a lot more limited than in first-world countries. That’s true of both public and private charge points in China.

On average, a PHEV in China won’t replace as many gasoline-powered miles with electricity-powered ones, because of limited charging opportunities. However, this doesn’t mean that on average, there is no benefit to PHEVs over gasmobiles. It’s a matter of degree. In China, the average degree of improvement is lower, but it’s still better than no improvement at all.


Given the Volt gets as many electric miles as the Leaf, your argument doesn’t seem rooted in reality.


Not a lot of Volt sales in China.


Not a lot of Tesla sales either!


I Have a 2012 Nissan Leaf. I can speak from experience that the infrastructure is not there to support electric vehicles at this time. Most BEVs (the affordable ones) on the market today don’t have enough range. I don’t know what the situation looks like in China, but if they have a similar situation to what we’re dealing with here in the United States I could see why they would prefer a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to BEV. My next car will be a plug-in hybrid. I love the pleasure of driving electric but I need that backup, my Lifestyle is too unpredictable.

no comment

i suspect that the situation in china is so different from that of the U.S. that it would be difficult to draw analogies. it appears that driving patterns are very different in china from those in the U.S. with automobiles being nowhere near as ingrained in the culture. from what i can tell, there are a number of BEVs that get sold in china that would never fly in the U.S. (e.g. “neighborhood” vehicles). i can believe that fixing the infrastructure in china; which i suspect would be a very large task in itself; would go a long way toward improving BEV adoption in china.


A question I’ve asked several times, but have never gotten an answer, is this: Just what percentage of BEVs sold in China are sold to the government, under the recent mandate that 30% of all cars sold to the Chinese government have to be alternative fuel vehicles*?

If those buying cars for the government are required to buy a certain number of plug-in EVs, then that’s not a reflection of popular demand, nor any indication of whether the average Chinese citizen would prefer a BEV or a PHEV.

Please note I’m not trying to dismiss sales to government fleets as if “they don’t matter”. Certainly they do matter to the manufacturer; a sale is a sale, regardless of who it’s sold to. But mandated sales are not any indication of popular demand, and may skew the adoption rate of BEVs vs. PHEVs. Looking to the future, we need to know what the Chinese market really wants, because that’s where the growth will be. Mandated sales are likely to remain a fixed number, not growing as the EV revolution progresses.

*Usually, and confusingly, called “NEVs” in articles about the Chinese EV market, where the term means “New Energy Vehicle”.


I think the NEVs are the same as here — neighborhood electric vehicles. The difference is in rural China they can travel on the main roads since these aren’t capable of supporting much high speed driving.

Actually these little vehicles make sense. It’s been many moon since I’ve been there but the idea of a Model S in the countryside makes me giggle.

Also keep in mind that, even in the largest cities, the grid in China is not the most robust.


Well, traffic in Chinese cities is much more mixed than it is in a U.S. city. There are plenty of cars, yes; but also a lot of pedestrians, and small vehicles such as bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, and small motorcycles. A lot of those cars are small cars, too.

China is in transition between a third-world country and a fully industrialized nation. The traffic on its city streets reflects this.

In the USA, NEVs (low-speed Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) are limited to between 25 and 35 MPH, depending on the State. So there’s a big gap between NEVs and highway-capable vehicles.

Not so in China. There is no artificial restriction of the speed of less-than-highway-speed vehicles, so small, cheaply made EVs have a variety of top speeds, some even capable of traveling at a slow highway speeds of 40-50 MPH.


I thought you were asking what electric vehicles (or New Energy Vehicles) were selling. The electrics that are selling are what we call NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles). They may not go fast or far, and they don’t work well in cities where people live in apartments without dedicated parking, but they work in the countryside where gas stations are few and gas is very expensive.

And yes, some can theoretically go 50 MPH.


My prediction:

Hardcore green car early adopters will tend to buy more pure EV’s than PHEV’s during the early adopter phase of “NEV” sales.

As “NEV’s” break into the mainstream, mainstream buyers will tend to gravitate to PHEV’s. The PHEV is just a more natural progression for somebody who may have already owned a regular hybrid.

I’ll even guess that once there are more PHEV’s available in the US, that PHEV sales will do the same here.

“Plug-In Hybrids Preferred”… If you mean pedal/electric hybrids, then yes. Pedelecs, e-bikes, e-mopeds, and e-scooters don’t just outsell electric cars, they may have (up to a certain year) outsold all cars, period.

And the “charging infrastructure” for an e-bike is your living room, or many storefronts. In effect, no new infrastructure is needed at all.


Well, in the market there incentives are equal for both BEV and PHEV, the sales tend to favor PHEV.

BEV only leads in market where the incentives are heavily tilted towards BEV.

The only exception would be market where there are NO incentives for either and Tesla Model S is available. Why is that different? Because Tesla makes a great car, NOT just a great BEV.