EVs & Mobility

This article was published on February 8, 2022

Adieu, Europe! China takes top spot for green car sales in 2021

The Empire strikes back


Adieu, Europe! China takes top spot for green car sales in 2021 Image by: Friends of Europe/Flickr -Edited
Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
Story by

Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives. Ioanna is a writer at SHIFT. She likes the transition from old to modern, and she's all about shifting perspectives.

After being overtaken by Europe in 2020, China is back on top and leading the charge in new energy vehicle (NEV) global sales

According to Chinese EV media outlet CnEVPost, China sold 3.31 million NEVs (battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles) out of a 6.23 million global total in 2021. Based on data from the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), this means that China took a 53% share of the global market, surpassing Europe’s 33% and the US’s 11%. 

These figures align closely with the findings of the International Energy Agency (IEA), published in late January. 

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According to the IEA, global NEV sales were slightly higher, at 6.6 million units. China finished 2021 with 3.4 million NEV registrations, which would account for a 51.5% share of the global market. This is 1.5% less than the CPCA’s figures.

And while it’s difficult to verify the data of both agencies, there’s one conclusion we can make: China trampled all over Europe last year.

China’s 2020 slump

The CPCA’s analysis indicates that 2020 was a rough year for China, which allowed Europe to take the global market lead for the first time, reaching 44% of NEVs sold. 

In contrast, China’s market share dropped to 41%, even though it held a dominant position between 2016 and 2019. 

The CPCA attributes this slump to two main reasons: revamped environmental policies and the COVID pandemic. 

And this sounds rather accurate.

In 2020, China reduced the number of EVs and hybrids eligible for subsidies, and stopped providing them for fuel cell vehicles entirely. On the other side of the world, most of European countries were offering tax breaks and purchasing incentives to attract consumers to electric machines. 

And while China was the first nation to be hit by the pandemic — and the first to deal with manufacturing setbacks — the outbreak’s consequences made an appearance in Europe some months later. 

For now, it looks like China’s back on track. The battle is far from over — and the coming years will show if it continues its EV dominance, or if other continents can catch up.

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