China

Why China is outselling the US in EVs 5 to 1

Electric cars made up 14.8% of Chinese car sales in 2021, compared with 4.1% in the U.S.

Hundreds of cars, mostly black or white, parked close together and seen from above

Passenger EV sales in China in 2021 jumped 169.1% to nearly 3.3 million from a year ago.

Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

When Tesla entered China in 2014, the country’s EV market was going through a reset. The Austin, Texas-based automaker created a catfish effect — a strong competitor that compels weaker peers to up their game — in China’s EV market for the past few years. Now, Tesla’s sardine-sized Chinese competitors have grown into big fishes in the tank, gradually weakening Tesla’s own prominence in the field.

2021 was a banner year for China’s EV industry. The latest data from the China Passenger Car Association shows that total passenger EV sales in China in 2021 jumped 169.1% from a year ago to nearly 2.99 million: about half of all EVs sold globally. Out of every 100 passenger cars sold in China last year, almost 15 were so-called "new energy vehicles" (NEVs) — a mix of battery-electric vehicles and hybrids.

China’s record EV sales and market share dwarfed the U.S. numbers, despite President Joe Biden’s pushes. Cumulatively, the U.S. saw sales of 607,567 light-duty electric and hybrid vehicles in 2021, less than 20% of China’s sales. As a percentage it’s no better: EVs made up merely 4% of total U.S. auto sales last year, nearly 11 percentage points below China’s rate and far from the White House’s target of 50% by 2030.

A bar graph displaying EV sales as a percentage of China vehicle sales, compared to as a percentage of US vehicle sales Graph: AJ Caughey

China’s homegrown EV brands — dubbed “the new force”(新势力) in Chinese — such as XPeng and NIO, as well as traditional automakers like Geely and BYD, all saw record EV sales last year. Tesla also enjoyed exponential growth in China, ranking No. 3 by annual sales.

“Tesla might have been the lone winner for a few years,” Lei Xing, a Massachusetts-based auto expert and a co-host of the China EVs & More podcast, told Protocol. “But from this point on, it will likely face fierce competition in China.”

BYD, a Chinese battery and electric carmaker backed by the U.S. investor Warren Buffett, took the throne by sales for the second consecutive year. The Shenzhen-based company sold about 584,000 EVs throughout 2021, more than doubling its 2020 sales number, according to CPCA. Its sales were largely boosted by budget-friendly plug-in hybrids. Ranked No. 2 by sales was SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between SAIC Motor, General Motors, and Liuzhou Wuling Motors. Wuling makes some of the best-selling EV models in China — mini EVs that cost around $5,000 each, a tenth of the Tesla Model 3 price. The company sold more than 430,000 EVs.

Tesla booked record sales in China, too. Owning a Tesla is a status symbol in China, just as it is in the U.S. The U.S. EV maker sold more than 320,000 cars in China last year. Notably, Tesla’s Shanghai factory delivered a total of 480,000 vehicles in 2021, accounting for around half of its global deliveries.

A bar graph displaying how many EVs 15 different automakers sold in China in both 2020 and 2021. Graph: AJ Caughey

The Chinese EV industry’s stunning 2021 performance didn’t come out of nowhere: Favorable policies supporting this industry started over a decade ago. From 2010 to 2016, the central government subsidized almost every electric or hybrid vehicle purchase by as much as $10,000; the subsidy amount dwindled after 2016, and many cars, from hybrid vehicles to small-sized ones, were eliminated from the qualified categories. But the heavy subsidies spurred the growth of the “new force,“ as well as the world’s largest battery supplier: CATL.

In a 2020 policy paper released by the State Council, Beijing spelled out its plan to reach 20% penetration of new energy vehicles by 2025. By 2035, the government envisions EVs will become the dominant new cars sold in the country.

The country’s monthly EV sales accounted for over 10% of total auto sales in China for the first time last March. By November, the monthly EV market share surpassed the 20% threshold, and then again in December.

As Beijing continues its heavy push to produce more energy-saving vehicles, not only is every traditional auto maker releasing electricity-powered models, competing with the NIOs and XPengs, but many internet companies have also joined the race. Tesla played no small role in catalyzing the Chinese EV market, Xing said, as “it has helped build the entire supply chain around its Shanghai factory.”

China also boasts the world’s largest public charging network. The China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance reported over 2.6 million charging stations throughout the country in 2021, up 70% from 2020. That’s about one charging station for every three EVs on the road in China. And the country is planning to build enough charging stations for 20 million EVs by 2025. By comparison, the U.S. has only about 47,000 EV charging stations, or one charger for roughly every 35 cars.

Last year’s frenzied growth may not be repeated in 2022. The subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles have been cut by another 30% this year, and by the end of the year, Beijing will sunset government-paid EV subsidies. Xing told Protocol one of the reasons the Chinese EV market exploded in 2021 was that everyone knew heavy subsidies would be phased out in 2022. The 30% slash in subsidies can translate to a cross-industry EV price hike. The ongoing global chip shortage and price increases for lithium batteries will make it even harder for carmakers to bring costs down.

Still, analysts expect EV sales to continue booming in 2022, and China may hit the 20% EV market share goal earlier than planned. The CPCA has revised the forecast of 2022 total passenger EV sales — including retail and wholesale — to 5.5 million units from the previously set 4.8 million, with a new energy passenger car penetration rate of about 25%.

AJ Caughey contributed research to this report.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins