We have been talking a lot since the beginning of the year about which company sold the most electric cars in 2015. For the purposes of this story, “electric” is defined as any car with a plug, whether it is a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt or a battery electric car like the Tesla Model S.
According to Green Car Reports, BMW sold “about 30,000” of its i3 and i8 cars. Chevrolet sold approximately 20,000 Volts and Spark EVs. Ford sold a similar number of Fusion PHEV, C Max PHEV and Focus Electric cars. Nissan sold 17,269 LEAF automobiles in the US, but it also markets that car and the electric e-NV200 van in many nations around the world. Green Car Reports total sales at around 50,000 worldwide.
That leaves Tesla with 50,557 cars delivered in all markets in 2015. So that means Tesla is the plug-in champ, right? Actually, no. Tesla’s performance is extraordinary, for sure. But the global plug-in sales leader is a company most Americans have never heard of — BYD.
The Chinese company made the world’s first production plug-in hybrid, the F3DM, in December 2008, which went on sale two years before the Chevrolet Volt. The F3DM was crude compared to the Chevrolet offering, but it started the company on the road to producing more and better electric vehicles. Along the way, it got into the electric bus business, and is now one of the world’s largest manufacturers of both urban and intercity electrified buses. Its forward progress even convinced Warren Buffett to invest in the company.
BYD makes battery electric vehicles, including the E6 hatchback which is used for taxi service in several cities. Uber is using them as well in Chicago. It also makes a variety of plug-in hybrids, including the newer Qin compact sedan and Tang compact SUV. According to the company, it delivered 31,898 Qins and 18,375 Tangs, along with 7,029 of the older E6s, during 2015. Add in a few T3 small commercial vans, some E5 battery electric compact sedans, and 2,888 compact Denza hatchbacks built as part of its joint venture with Daimler and the total comes out to be 61,722 BYD vehicles with plugs sold last year.
Just to be clear, all of those are highway capable cars. The numbers do not include any low speed neighborhood electric vehicles, although BYD produces lots of those as well. The US is celebrating a record year for new car sales, with almost 17.5 million sold. The Chinese market eclipsed that total by more than 3 million vehicles. Cadillac and Buick will both import Chinese made cars this year. The future of the car industry is taking shape now in the Orient.