Half of all EVs (electric vehicles) sold globally in 2021 were to China

In the wake of surging electric vehicle (EV) sales around the world, it might seem that China is winning the EV race – as the country once again dominated with most EVs sold in 2021. Overall, more than 3.2 million EVs, including fully electric and plug-in hybrid passenger, were sold in Mainland China last year – half of all electric cars sold worldwide.

  • Approximately 6.5 million EVs were sold worldwide in 2021, a 109% spike from 2020.
  • China sold over 3.2 million EVs last year, accounting for a 53% share of the global market.
  • Europe still holds the crown for the highest level of EV adoption in the world. Overall, EVs represented 19% of total car sales in the region for 2021.

In total, according to technology research company Canalys, approximately 6.5 million EVs were sold worldwide in 2021, a jump of 109% from 2020. China on the other hand sold two million more EVs than it did the year before. The spike in sales is despite the total global car market growing only a mere 4% amid a global chip shortage that has impacted automakers worldwide.

EV sales in particular represented 9% of all passenger car sales in 2021. Canalys reckon while demand for EVs stayed strong in 2021, many more would have been sold had it not been for the chronic component shortages still affecting every car maker around the world.

China bought half of all EVs sold globally

Canalys’ Principal analyst Jason Low noted that EVs made up 15% of new cars sold in China in 2021, which is more than double the percentage in 2020. He noted there could be a “huge opportunity for future growth in 2022 and beyond” as new models are launched monthly in each market segment, from city cars to sports utility vehicles.


Canalys noted that the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV remained as the best-selling EV model in Mainland China in 2021. EVs from Tesla held the next two places, with the Model Y overtaking the Model 3. “But competition is increasing. BYD has expanded its range of EVs and was the leading EV brand in China with several popular fully electric and plug-in hybrid models,” Low added.

Other brands with strong EV sales in 2021 in Mainland China included Aion, Changan, Chery, Li Xiang, Ora, Roewe and Xpeng.

Highest EV adoption rate is still in Europe 

In Europe, even traditional car makers are increasingly electrifying their product ranges. In total, EVs represented 19% of total car sales in 2021 with 2.3 million vehicles delivered. The Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling electric car in Europe in 2021, but Volkswagen Group was the leading manufacturer of EV, with several models from Audi, Skoda and VW selling well, Canalys noted.

“Demand for EVs continues to be strong in Europe. In fact, in many European countries EVs represented more than a quarter of new cars sold. but customers must be patient. A nine to 12 month wait time for a new EV is not unusual,” said Canalys analyst Ashwin Amberkar said.

The top electric car manufacturers in 2021

Canalys’ data shows that Tesla led the worldwide EV market with a 14% share in 2021 while Volkswagen Group was second with a 12% market share. The German automaker doubled its EV sales in 2021 compared with 2020 and led the market in Europe.

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China’s SAIC, which includes SGMW, the combination of SAIC, GM and Wuling, came third with an 11% share. The big success within the group is still the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV in Mainland China, where it is the runaway leader, as per Canalys’ data.

BYD, another Chinese brand, came fourth with a share of 9% and a particularly strong second half of the year. Its EV sales increased by over 200% in 2021. Stellantis was fifth with a 6% market share while BMW Group held a 5% share in 2021, growing its electrified vehicle sales by 70%. Then there was Hyundai Motor Group that held a 5% share of the EV market in 2021.


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