How China-made EVs are going global

Blue BYD Atto 3 front

There’s a big player in the e-mobility space: China.

From the Shenzhen-based Build Your Dreams (BYD) conglomerate to the Shanghai-made Tesla Model 3, Chinese-made electric cars are on the rise – and being exported on a global scale.

That’s no surprise, given a surge of traditional and new automakers in China and heightened uptake of Chinese-made vehicles in countries like Australia. Several Chinese automakers are now one of the top 25 largest automakers by market value.

MG ZS EV steering wheel

MG Motor (British brand but Chinese owned) has been in the top 10 best selling brands in Australia since March – overtaking Volkswagen, Subaru and Mercedes-Benz.

Meanwhile, Great Wall Motors (GWM) and LDV are not too far off either – beating established car brands like Suzuki, Audi and Honda as at the end of October 2021.

Their success is largely put down by the vehicle value propositions they offer and evergreen stock unhampered by the global semiconductor shortage.

According to industry data, China is now the fourth biggest source of new cars in Australia, with 61,953 made-in-China vehicles sold this year so far (January to October 2021) compared to 22,292 sold in the same period in 2020. That’s a 64 per cent spike.

White Polestar 2 driving

We already have the Shanghai-made Tesla Model 3, the most popular EV Down Under, alongside the penultimate MG ZS EV as Australia’s most affordable zero tailpipe emissions car, and the high-in-demand Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric made in the Luqiao CMA Super Factory.

Soon, Volvo-Geely subsidiary Polestar will launch its sleek Polestar 2 crossover liftback in February 2022 made in the same Luqiao plant, the Shanghai-made Tesla Model Y small SUV will lob sometime next year, and another Geely-owned brand Lynk & Co has confirmed intentions to expand Down Under by 2025.

BYD will debut several electric cars sometime next year (via distributor Nexport) with its T3 electric light commercial vehicle, Yuan Plus small SUV, E6 people mover and possibly more.

On the pickup truck spectrum, GWM has confirmed it’s bringing its upcoming electric Ute and LDV is also making a right-hand drive version of its T90 electric ute (though unconfirmed for Australia).

But what innovations is China bringing to the global EV market?

Out of six of the major EV battery suppliers, two Chinese companies – Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) and BYD – account for around one-third of the global market, while all six battery producers are Asian, according to Swiss bank UBS.

CATL dominates in manufacturing high-voltage EV battery packs.

It’s currently the major player in producing lithium-ion-phosphate (LFP) batteries which is cheaper to produce, can be regularly charged to 100 per cent without significant degradation and, importantly, does not contain environmentally-harmful rare earth materials like nickel and cobalt.

Similarly, BYD’s Blade battery is also an LFP but has a long and thin shape, inserts cells into a battery pack to better utilise its space, and is said to be more durable and safe by surviving nail penetration and extreme temperature tests.

Nio battery swapping station

Additionally, Chinese luxury automaker Nio has expanded into the Norwegian market with its ES8 large electric SUV and is setting up its battery swapping stations in Europe with a partnership with petrol-giant Shell.

It enables battery-as-a-service where owners can buy a cheaper Nio with a smaller battery capacity, then opt to rent a new, bigger battery with more range when needed.

Likewise, Xpeng Motors and Hongqi have also entered into Norway, the world’s biggest EV market.

Ora Funky Cat rear

GWM is also launching its quirky Ora Cat pure-electric hatchback in Europe and the United Kingdom with a price tag of around £25,000 (A$46,578) to directly compete with the Mini Electric.

So, it’s no secret that China is fiercely riding on an EV wave and is expanding its knowledge and innovation to the world to accelerate EV adoption.

Figures by Danny Thai

About the author

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Henry Man

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Henry Man is a motoring journalist passionate about the intersection of technology and transportation, with a focus on electric vehicles.

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