We are always happy to point out good news about U.S. plug-in car sales, and lately there’s been plenty of it: April marked the sixth consecutive record month with 10,586 deliveries. Yet all records are relative. China electric vehicle sales topped 30,000 units that same month, doubling the numbers year over year in parts of the segment, according to official state numbers. Alternative-energy cars have outperformed every other segment in 2016.
China Daily reported 31,772 plug-in sales in April, marking a 190% rise, year over year. These numbers include small EVs, commercial trucks, and plug-in hybrids as well as pure electric sedans like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S. Through the first four months of 2016, China EV sales have cracked 90,000 units, which represents 131% gains over the same period from 2015. No other segment can come close to this type of growth.
Overall, China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) reported 6.3% gains for the industry, which represents a slowdown compared to the brisk growth of previous years. SUV sales, up 32% year over year, were the top performing segment behind plug-in vehicles designated “new energy” by government agencies. Sedans and crossovers showed slumps through April compared to the prior year.
China’s incentives for electric vehicles of all sizes — as well as cars with engines of 1.6 liters or smaller — have presented consumers with alternatives to the oil-burning vehicles that cause so much pollution in the country. Though concerns linger about the coal content in Chinese power plants, a transition away from gasoline seems to be on the horizon.
According to InsideEVs, the lion’s share of the latest sales report belongs to pure EVs, which sold 23,908 units in April, compared to 7,864 plug-in hybrid models. The most eye-popping number of all the reports is the 224% growth, year over year, for pure electrics. That makes the extraordinary 98% growth of PHEVs seem pedestrian.
Sales incentives are not the only thing attracting Chinese consumers to EVs the last few years. When the worst waves of air pollution hit cities, electric car drivers are often the only ones allowed on the road. Furthermore, new-car buyers have to win a lottery to land registrations in China. If you opt for an electric model, registration is automatic.
The modest growth of EVs on the U.S. market seems about right given the modest incentives available to consumers. Chinese car shoppers have to consider it a no-contest decision when weighing the option of not driving versus driving electric. In Norway, where taxes make it equally impractical to buy a gas or diesel car, the incentives work in both directions .
As U.S. officials plan to combat climate change, we’ll see if they actually enact laws to make it happen. For starters, we suggest extending the $7,500 tax credit to 300,000 vehicles per manufacturer. With this guarantee in place for the arrival of the Tesla Model 3 and Ford Model E, you might see cases of 100% sales growth closer to home.
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY