For 2020, China sold 1.3 million EVs, meaning growth of 8%, while global sales soared by 39% as reported.
The company said that while Beijing had supported the transition to EVs, changes in related policies and consumer subsidies had led to car manufacturers struggling to build sales momentum.
“The Chinese EV market in 2020 was all about two vehicles: the made-in-China Tesla Model 3, the market leader in the first half of 2020, and the Hongguang Mini EV from the SGMW joint venture (SAIC, General Motors and Wuling), the market leader in the second half of 2020, which only launched mid-year,” said Chris Jones, chief analyst for automotive at Canalys.
Canalys said the 1.3 million EVs sold in China made up 41% of global sales, trailing Europe which was just ahead with 42%. But the US is far behind, with only 2.4% of global sales in 2020.
“Prospects are very good for China’s EV market in 2021,” said Jones. “There is already an excellent network of standardised public EV chargers in China, good government support and now a return to strong consumer demand.”
Canalys pointed out that Tesla had already started deliveries of the made-in-China Model Y. Production of the Hongguang Mini EV had been increased to keep up with demand, particularly from young Chinese urban-dwellers.
It said other small, more affordable city cars, such as the Baojun E-Series from SGMW and the Ora R1 from Great Wall Motors were also proving very popular.
The Ora R1, touted as the world’s cheapest EV, is set to soon be sold in India, which had an EV share of less than 0.5% in 2020.
“With a share of just 6.3% of all passenger cars sold in China in 2020, EVs have many years of growth ahead,” said Sandy Fitzpatrick, vice-president at Canalys.
“But with Tesla expanding its portfolio in China, it will be hard for competitors offering premium EVs to gain market share.
"With that in mind, some Chinese car makers are already looking for growth opportunities in other parts of the world, especially Europe."
Canalys defines EVs as including battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles while passenger cars exclude light commercial vehicles.