|Beijing Auto is gradually introducing electrification to its range but has yet to commit to a point where it will cease selling combustion-powered vehicles. It has launched two brands dedicated to electrification – BJEV and Arcfox – and will add more models as sales of these vehicles grow. It has entered into a joint venture with CF Energy and EDF China to open battery-swapping stations in a handful of Chinese locations, predominantly aimed at BAIC’s EV lease customers operating in the ride-hail sector. In January 2021, South Korean battery maker SK Innovation confirmed that it had taken a minority stake in BAIC’s battery-swapping venture. In 2019, BAIC announced it had established a joint venture with contract manufacturer Magna to open a factory in China with a capacity for 180,000 vehicles per year. The first model produced in this facility was an Arcfox branded EV from the end of 2020.
||The BJEV brand sells re-engineered versions of BAIC Senova models, fitted with EV parts. BAIC also owns the Arcfox EV brand – selling the Arcfox Lite city car and the Arcfox Alpha-T crossover.
||BYD has established a name for itself both as an automaker specialising in PHEV and battery EVs, and as a manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for sale to other automakers. Most of its self-branded models are available with a choice of either a combustion engine, a plug-in hybrid, or a fully electric powertrain. It has begun offering the Tang SUV for sale in Norway – the first designated European market for the Chinese automaker. Norway buys a particularly high proportion of electric vehicles, so will likely serve as a gateway for BYD to start selling EVs in the continent more regularly. It has also collaborated with Chinese ride-hail giant Didi Chuxing, in the creation of the BYD D1 electric MPV. This model is not available to the general public and includes a number of features specifically for use while offering ride-hailing.
||BYD manufactures a wide range of electric vehicles, both for passenger and commercial use. The latter category includes electric buses and heavy-duty trucks. Notable models include the C-segment Qin sedan and D-segment Han sedan. In addition, EV powertrains are offered on the Song crossover and the Song Max MPV. It builds the Denza 500 EV through a joint venture with Mercedes, based on the B-Class architecture.
||Byton was formed in China by former BMW and Nissan executives. It began showing the M-Byte crossover concept car at CES 2018 with initial plans to begin deliveries in 2019. However, production problems and other teething issues pushed this date back. In June 2020, the company announced it would go on a six-month suspension to reorganise its operations, with some commentators expecting its demise. However, in January 2021 the company remerged with the news that it had signed an agreement with Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. The latter would provide manufacturing technology and operational expertise, along with its supply chain and an investment thought to be worth around $200m. With this new investment, Byton hopes to launch the M-Byte in the first quarter of 2022. This agreement marks Foxconn’s first foray into automotive manufacturing after making its name in consumer electronics.
||So far, Byton has only shown two models, the M-Byte SUV and the K-Byte sedan. Production will begin with the M-Byte. This is thought to have a battery capacity of up to 95kWh, giving it a range of more than 300 miles using CATL cobalt-free cells. The K-Byte sedan is less far along in the development cycle and will launch after the M-Byte. It will probably use the same EV drivetrain and batteries.
||Like many Chinese OEMs, Chang’an’s approach to electrification is to gradually introduce the technology retrofitted to its existing model lineup, giving the new models the branding Chang’an New Energy. Chang’an currently operates a joint venture with Ford and, in January 2021, confirmed that it would handle local production of the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV in China. It is likely that these Chinese-built Mach-Es will use battery cells sourced from Chang’an’s existing Chinese suppliers, rather than drawing from the same LG Chem cell supply network as US-built versions. Chang’an also signed an agreement with China’s CATL to work together on connected, smart electrified vehicles, so it is likely that CATL will be the supplier for Chang’an’s future electrified lineup.
||Chang’an offers a number of its regular models with electrified powertrains. These include the Benni city car, the CS15 crossover and the Eado compact sedan. It also owns the Oushan SUV brand under which it sells an electrified version of the X7 SUV with a 250-mile range.
||Dongfeng is a Chinese OEM with a number of high-profile joint ventures with non-Chinese companies including Stellantis, Hyundai and Nissan. Its most concrete venture into the electric vehicle segment comes in the form of new sub-brand Voyah. This brand is eventually intended to grow to include nine different models, all likely using variants of the same electric platform developed for the first model – the iFree SUV.
||A handful of existing models from Dongfeng and its joint ventures can be bought with electric powertrains. These include the Nissan Leaf-based Nissan Sylphy Zero Emission launched in 2018.
||First Auto Works (FAW) was the first-ever Chinese vehicle manufacturer and has grown to become one of the ‘big four’ state-owned automakers. Like most Chinese automakers, it has a sprawling product range under a number of different sub-brands. It is gradually introducing electrification to its model lineup. Alongside its own operations, FAW is part of a handful of joint ventures with foreign OEMs. It signed an agreement with Audi in January 2021 to cooperate on the production of EVs based on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) deployed in the Porsche Taycan and Auto e-tron GT.
||While a number of models across FAW’s range are available with electrified powertrains, it has launched a few dedicated EV models. Notably the Hongqi E-HS3, an electric SUV from the upmarket Hongqi brand, which is being built up as a rival for Tesla and other premium EV makers.
||Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) is another Chinese state-owned automaker. It is following a similar electrification strategy as other Chinese OEMs by gradually introducing electrification options to existing models in its range. Models include the Trumpchi GE3 EV, Leopaard CS3 BEV and Everus VE-1 EV. GAC’s Trumpchi brand has often been touted as a possible export marque that could sell well in the US and Europe thanks to its large range of SUV models. It is likely that, to compete in those markets, GAC will need an electrified Trumpchi SUV to rival the Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
||Notable EVs currently built by GAC include the Trumpchi GE3 EV and Leopaard CS3 BEV. It also produces the Everus VE-1 EV in a joint venture operation alongside Honda.
||Geely is a Chinese automotive giant but, unlike the ‘big four’, it is a private operation rather than owned by the Chinese state. Its significant growth over the years has seen it acquire a number of international brands including Volvo, Polestar, Lotus and Proton, along with a financial stake in Daimler. It has also launched the Lynk & Co brand using components from Volvo and Geely models and is preparing the all-electric Geometry brand for launch later in the 2020s. It owns the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) which manufactures the current electrified London black cab, with a spin-off commercial van using the same hardware. While the wider Geely group has yet to commit to a point where it will cease selling combustion-powered cars, its premium brand Volvo has said it will sell only electric vehicles from 2030 onwards. Volvo’s spin-off brand Polestar is about to launch to the wider market with the ‘2’ sedan, intended to rival the Tesla Model 3, with all future Polestar cars expected to be solely electrically powered.
||Geely sells a number of purely electric options across its own range including the Emgrand EV. However, most of its electric options are sold through its sub-brands. In China, this includes the Zhidou D2 minicar, which shares a platform with the Zoyte E20. In addition, it owns the Kandi brand which includes minicars such as the K23, and compact crossovers such as the EX3. Beyond China, notable models include the Volvo XC40 Recharge, the Polestar 2 and the soon-to-launch Geometry brand.
||Great Wall is already somewhat known for its pickup trucks, which are exported to many markets beyond China. The group, however, also owns a number of sub-brands that mainly operate in China that will form the basis of its electrification strategy going forward. Under its own auspices, Great Wall launched the Ora brand in 2019 with the compact R1 – claimed to be the world’s cheapest electric car. Ora has since expanded into a four-model lineup mostly focused on compact vehicles. Great Wall has also confirmed in December 2020 that it would set up a new brand in a 50-50 joint venture with BMW. The as-yet-unnamed brand will focus on more upscale models and it is likely that some if not all will be offered with the option of electrification.
||Great Wall’s current EV lineup is limited to its Ora brand, covering four different compact vehicles. Its Haval brand regularly features in the best-selling Chinese vehicle lists so is also a likely candidate for an electric model in the near future.
||Li Auto is another emerging name in Chinese electric vehicle manufacturing. However, unlike its rivals, Li Auto has focused initially on electric vehicles with built-in range extending gasoline engines. Its only model so far is the Li Xiang One, a premium mid-size SUV. This has a comparatively modest 40.5kWh battery pack supplemented by a 1.2-litre turbocharged gasoline engine. The engine does not power the wheels directly and only provides charge to the battery when it is depleted. This is not as clean as a pure EV, but makes it more practical for buyers without easy access to charging infrastructure. Since its launch, the company has delivered more than 40,000 Xiang Ones with sales in February 2021 recovering by 755% compared with sales one year earlier, having been dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
||The company’s single model lineup currently features the Li Xiang One, a premium mid-size SUV. Unlike many emerging rivals, this model comes with a gasoline engine acting as a range extender. This may be seen as a stop-gap technology on the way to pure electrification, but it might make the Xiang One a more viable option for those without access to a charger.
||NIO is an emerging Chinese EV maker with a lineup of higher end, expensive models. Since its founding in 2014, it has attracted investment from the likes of Tencent, Baidu, Lenovo and Sequoia Capital. Seeking to make the transition to EVs easier for owners, NIO has launched battery swap stations at a handful of locations in China. These allow owners to pull into a specialised bay while a system automatically removes the drained battery pack from their vehicle and replaces it with a fully charged one. This should negate charging times entirely, although the cost of this infrastructure is significantly higher than conventional EV charging stations and is difficult to operate flexibly across multiple different models. The company has struggled to generate a consistent profit since its inception as it spends to ramp up production. Nevertheless, it reported more than twice as many deliveries in 2020 as it did in 2019, and a notable improvement in vehicle margin to 17.2% in Q4 2020 compared with -6% one year earlier.
||NIO’s current lineup includes three SUVs: the large ES8, then the slightly smaller ES6 and coupe-like EC6. It also manufactures the low-volume EP9 hypercar. This has since become the fastest electric vehicle to lap the Nürburgring in Germany. Future models could include a C-segment sedan, an even smaller SUV to sit below the ES6, and a minivan.
||SAIC Motor is based in Shanghai, China and is another of the ‘big four’ Chinese state-owned automakers. Like those OEMs, SAIC has gradually introduced electrification across its range. It has not committed to a timeframe for phasing out combustion-powered vehicles but stated in September 2020 that it was planning to launch nearly 100 new EVs for sale by 2025. Around 60 of those will be from SAIC’s own brands, while the remainder will come from its joint venture activities with Volkswagen and General Motors. For export markets, SAIC is likely to accelerate its current plan of launching them under the MG marque, which it acquired along with the Rover brand in 2007. So far, the ZS EV SUV is being sold in export markets including the UK.
||SAIC currently offers a number of its models with plug-in hybrid powertrains including the Maxus D60 SUV, the eMG 6 and Roewe ei6. For purely electric vehicles, SAIC’s rang includes the Roewe e50, Ei5, Ei6 and Marvel X; the MG ZS EV and MG5 EV; and the Alibaba-backed IM brand that will enter the market in 2022.
||XPeng (also known as Xiaopeng Motors) is a publicly traded EV company based in China but listed on the New York Stock Exchange. After launching in 2014, XPeng has attracted investment from Alibaba, electronics company Xiaomi, and electronics manufacturer Foxconn. Deliveries are predominantly focused on the Chinese market but it has begun exports to certain EV friendly markets such as Norway. Sales in 2020 were more than 27,000 units – a 112.5% increase compared with 12,728 in 2019. In March 2021, XPeng confirmed that it would begin using battery cells from Chinese manufacturer CATL using LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate_ chemistry. This chemistry has already made an appearance on Chinese-built standard-range Tesla Model 3s also using CATL cells. Crucially, this chemistry removes the need for cobalt – a particularly expensive metal that increases battery costs.
||So far, XPeng has launched two models. The first is a C-segment crossover SUV called the G3. Initial models claimed a range of 190 miles but this has since been upgraded to more than 300 on the NEDC cycle. The second model is the P7 sedan, intended as a direct Tesla competitor. The P7 will be the first XPeng model to use cobalt-free LFP batteries. A more compact version called the P5 is due to launch later in 2021.