Here are the world’s largest electric car companies

We’re no longer in an era where EVs belong to the distant future. Carmakers across the globe have embraced the transition towards electric vehicles. Listed below are the world’s largest electric car companies, which have taken a substantial lead over the others in the journey towards carbon-neutral mobility.

Going by the sales trends, 2021 was a tremendous growth year for the EV market, with Tesla dominating the charts. While the American EV maker is far ahead in terms of sales and market value, automakers like SAIC, BYD, Volkswagen Group, and Hyundai Motor Group also offer competitive electric vehicles across different segments.

Let’s delve deep into the world’s largest electric car companies:

Tesla

New Tesla Model X 2021 front three quarters
The Tesla Model X gets cool gull-wing doors that retract upwards. Image: Tesla

Tesla, though incorporated in 2003, is still in its teens, but it’s outperforming the auto industry’s oldest players. CEO Elon Musk’s foresight has made Tesla the world’s largest electric car company in sales and the largest automaker by market value. In October 2021, Tesla hit a market cap of USD 1 trillion, more than the combined valuation of five of its closest competitors: Toyota, VW, Daimler, GM, and Nio. Its valuation has fallen since then, and as of March 2022, Tesla is valued at USD 893 billion.

The Gigafactories

Tesla laid the foundations early. The Model 3 sedan went on sale in 2017, and the brand inaugurated the first Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, which manufactures Tesla batteries and EV components. Tesla developed capable powertrains for its S.3.X.Y model range and built a robust supercharger network of more than 30,000 across the United States to make electric cars appealing. Tesla installs six new superchargers every week in the U.S. market.

In the first week of the Model 3’s announcement in 2016, the brand garnered 325,000 reservations. Since then, the sky has been the limit. Currently, Tesla has three Gigafactories — Giga New York in Buffalo, Giga Shanghai for the Chinese market, and the original Giga Nevada. Giga Berlin and Giga Texas are under construction. Presently, Tesla cars in Europe are imported from China, and that’s set to change within a few months thanks to the local manufacturing in Berlin.

Cool features like Ludicrous mode and Autopilot

Teslas are exciting. The interior is minimalist, with a large central touchscreen housing most functions. The Ludicrous Mode rockets the Tesla Model S from 0-60 mph in just 2.5 seconds. The Tesla Model X has gull-wing doors, while the Model 3 and Y bring incredible value to early EV adopters with relatively affordable price tags. All of them come with Tesla’s Autopilot Level 2 autonomous driving system. The system uses 360-degree cameras, visual processing up to 250 meters, and has 12 ultrasonic sensors.

According to Tesla’s vehicle safety report, for Q4 2021, there was just one crash for 4.31 miles driven. Tesla’s ADAS systems and Autopilot are making the roads safer.

Global EV sales leader

Despite the semiconductor shortages and the pandemic, Tesla customers’ excitement remained unfettered. In 2021, the brand reported 936,172 deliveries, the highest for any EV maker in the world. Model 3 and Y spearheaded this charge with combined sales of 911,208 units worldwide—the more expensive Model S and X combined for 24,964 deliveries. 

Tesla models: S, 3, X, Y, Roadster (2024), Cybertruck (2023), and Semi (2023)

2021 BEV sales: 936,172

Market cap: USD 893 billion (March 2022)

SAIC Motor

Wuling Mini EV
The Wuling Mini EV was the best-selling EV in China in 2021. Image: SAIC/GM

SAIC Motor or the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation has been the largest carmaker in China for 16 years straight regarding volumes sold. In 2021, the group sold 5.81 million cars in China; 732,646 were NEVs, making it one the world’s largest electric car companies. Its subsidiaries MG Motor and Maxus sold more than 50,000 new energy vehicles in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. SAIC runs multiple joint ventures with Volkswagen, General Motors, Iveco, and Wuling to sell its models in China and abroad.

With MG Motor and Maxus, SAIC already has a strong presence in Europe. The group said in February 2022 that it plans to sell 120,000 vehicles in Europe under the MG Motor and Maxus brands. Europe will be SAIC’s first overseas market with over 100,000 sales if it achieves this target. According to the brand’s records, 679,000 vehicles were sold outside of China last year, and it claims that SAIC Motor makes one of every three Chinese cars sold abroad. 

Its subsidiary Maxus has already emerged as a more popular electric van brand internationally, selling 52,000 electric vans in 2021. The Maxus eDeliver3 and eDeliver9 vans impress on paper, with over 200 miles of range and a payload capacity of 945 kg and 1,290 kg, respectively. SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile’s (SGMW) Wuling Mini EV city car is also sold in Europe, with Lithuania as its first market. It is sold in Lithuania under the Freze Nikrob EV moniker and is locally assembled by Nikrob UAB.

SAIC EVs: MG ZS EV, Wuling Mini EV, Maxus MIFA 9, Euniq 6, and more

2021 sales (including PHEVs): 732,646

Market cap: USD 34 billion

Volkswagen Group

VW ID.4 front
The ID.4 SUV is among the bestsellers for VW across the globe. American production begins in mid-2022. Image: VW

Volkswagen tackled the dieselgate adversity head-on by radically shifting its focus towards EVs with its ID. range, based on the Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) platform. VW has also significantly ramped up production capacities across the globe in the last decade to become one of the world’s largest electric car companies.

Carbon neutral mother plant

Volkswagen is on track to become carbon-neutral in the coming years. In Zwickau, Germany, its plant is the world’s first 100% carbon neutral conversion facility. Also, it has a strong presence in China and runs under the SAIC-Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen joint ventures. The SAIC Group is one of the world’s largest EV makers.

China is the world’s largest EV market, so having a manufacturing facility in China was a no-brainer. VW’s facilities in Foshan and Anting in China have a combined annual production capacity of 600,000 units. The FAW-Volkswagen ID.4 Crozz and the SAIC Volkswagen ID.4 X are manufactured here.

VW’s first greenfield MEB plant is powered entirely by renewable energy, thanks to 200,000 square meters of solar panels, which produce 9000 MWh annually. For the U.S. market, the ID.4 will be manufactured at the brand’s Chattanooga, Tennessee facility from mid-2022 onwards.

MEB platform

The brand’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) platform is scalable for use across different vehicles. By 2029, 20 million VW Group EVs are expected to run the MEB architecture. Moreover, VW Group brands like Audi, Skoda, and Seat also use the platform. What’s more, VW has already envisioned its next-generation EV, the VW Trinity project, underpinned by the Scalable Systems Platform, which would make it highly digital. 

The ID. range has capable powertrains. Let’s take the example of the VW ID.4. The SUV is offered with AWD and RWD drive layouts. The RWD ID.4’s electric motor makes 201 hp and 229 lb-ft, while the AWD version comes with a 295 hp and 229 lb-ft set-up. Moreover, VW has improved range and charging for the 2022 ID.4. The range is up from 260 to 280 miles (EPA) on the RWD variant and DC charging capacity is up from 125kW to 135kW. The ID.4 starts at USD 40,760 (MSRP).

Strong 2021 sales figures

The VW Group sold 452,900 BEVs in 2021 worldwide. The group also sold 309,500 PHEVs. VW Group is the European leader in market sales and in the U.S., it holds a 7.5% market share for EVs. Moreover, sales were strong in major markets like China, where VW sold 92,700 BEVs in 2021, while only 17,000 BEVs were delivered in the United States. The ID.4, ID.3, e-up! were popular mass-market models.

119,650 ID.4 SUVs were sold in 2021, followed by 75,500 ID.3s and 41,500 units of the e-up!. Audi led the charge among premium cars by selling 81,894 vehicles, a 57.5% growth compared to 2020. Audi’s EV range, which includes the e-tron SUV, e-tron Sportback, e-tron GT, RS e-tron GT, Q4 e-tron, and the Q4 e-tron Sportback, is well-received among premium EV buyers. The group brands play a big role in making VW one of the world’s largest electric car companies.

Volkswagen EVs: ID.3, ID.4, e-up!, ID.Buzz (mid-2022 for EU, 2024 in the U.S), ID.5 (2022), ID.2 (2026)

2021 BEV sales: 452,900

Market cap: USD 98.34 billion (March 2022)

BYD

New BYD Tang EV 2022 front three quarters leaked image
The BYD Tang EV was among the best selling EVs in China in 2021. An improved version (pictured) is waiting in the wings. Image: MIIT China

BYD was founded in the same year as Tesla (2003), and it has witnessed exponential growth in its home market of China. Warren Buffet has also invested in the Chinese automaker. Some of China’s best-selling EVs in 2021 include the Qin sedan, the flagship Han saloon, Song mid-size SUV, and the Tang SUV that seats seven (Tang EV is also sold in Norway). BYD has also made headlines for its blade battery technology which debuted on the Han EV in 2020. The technology is developed by FinDreams Battery, a subsidiary of BYD. 

BYD Blade Battery

Instead of having multiple stacks of cells, singular cells are arranged together in an array and then inserted into the battery. BYD says this optimizes space utilization and improves cell density, enhancing range compared to regular lithium-ion phosphate block batteries. BYD conducted rigorous tests on its blade battery, subjecting it to nail penetration and rigidity tests. The batteries could withstand the trials and did not reach high temperatures either.

BYD 2021 sales

BYD topped the EV sales leaderboard in China in 2021, outselling Tesla. While BYD sold 320,810 EVs in China, Tesla sold 473,000 cars in 2021. But if you include BYD’s plug-in hybrid and commercial electric range, the brand’s total sales exceeded Tesla’s by a long way. The Chinese carmaker’s BEV and PHEV sales were over 600,000 in China, making it one of the world’s largest electric car companies. The Yuan electric SUV was among the more popular models with 41,000 units sold, while the flagship Han accounted for 10,000 units.

The upcoming BYD Seal is expected to be revealed at the 2022 Beijing Auto Show (April 21-April 30).

BYD EVs: e3, Tang EV, Dolphin, Han, Yuan Plus (Atto 3), Seal (2022)

2021 BEV sales: 320,810

Market cap: USD 104.72 billion (March 2022)

Hyundai Motor Group

US-spec Hyundai Ioniq 5 front three quarters dynamic
Hyundai has created a genuinely futuristic design for the Ioniq 5. Image: Hyundai

In the early 2000s, Hyundai was a South Korean carmaker that made simple or boring family cars. Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) reshaped its identity in the previous decade by making premium vehicles and leapfrogging competition with its future-proof powertrains. Hyundai and Kia have been offering conversion BEVs for a while now with the Kona Electric and the Niro EV, but the brand’s dedicated EV platform, the E-GMP, is the real deal. Hyundai today is among the world’s largest electric car companies.

Game-changing platform

E-GMP stands for Electric Global Modular Platform. It comprises the vehicle’s chassis, including the battery, motor, and electrical systems, and its scalable wheelbase allows it to form the backbone of many different segments of cars. E-GMP has been developed to accommodate large batteries that offer over 500 km range, approximately. The platform also supports 400v and 800v charging. E-GMP-based cars like Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6 take only 18 minutes to charge using DC fast chargers.

Moreover, the platform uses an ultra-high-strength steel frame, 8-point battery mounts to absorb structural impacts during crashes, and bidirectional charging to external power devices using the vehicle’s battery.

HMG sales in 2021

Hyundai registered a 20% growth for its BEVs in 2021. HMG sold 184,660 BEVs last year. Hyundai also sold 9,620 FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles) across the globe, led by the Hyundai Nexo. Regarding E-GMP sales, Hyundai sold around 66,000 Ioniq 5s while Kia managed to deliver over 30,000 EV6 units since production began in March 2021. Genesis also sold over 1,000 GV60s in 2021, taking sales of E-GMP platform-based cars to nearly 100,000 in just ten months. 

Ioniq 5 sales have been surging in the United States in 2022. The brand has sold over 3500 units within the first two months. The EV offers an EPA estimated range of 303 miles and two powertrain options — 225 hp RWD or 320 hp AWD. It offers premium features like active grille shutters, flush door handles, augmented reality heads-up display, and more. The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 price (base SE variant) starts at USD 43,650 (MSRP).

EV Production to boost significantly

At the 2022 CEO Investor Day forum on March 3, 2022, Hyundai Motor CEO Jaehoon Chang revealed the brand’s electrification plan to bolster Hyundai’s position as one of the world’s largest electric car companies.

11 Hyundai and 6 Genesis BEVs will be introduced by 2030. The brand will also present its next-gen platform, the Integrated Modular Architecture, in 2025. Targets look ambitious as the brand plans to sell 1.87 million BEVs by 2030. Adding a new manufacturing base is also under consideration. Currently, Hyundai EVs are made in South Korea and the Czech Republic. The new Indonesia plant is also set to begin BEV production this year. Meanwhile, Kia has said that it will launch 14 EVs by 2027, including two electric pickup trucks.

HMG EVs: Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kona Electric, Ioniq Electric, Kia EV6, Genesis GV60, and more

2021 HMG BEV sales: 184,660 (96,800 sold by Hyundai and Genesis, 87,860 by Kia approximately)

Market cap (Hyundai Motor Company): USD 33.73 billion (March 2022)

World’s largest electric car companies2021 EV salesMarket cap in March 2022
Tesla936,172USD 893 billion
SAIC Motor732,646 (including PHEVs)USD 34 billion
Volkswagen Group452,900USD 98.34 billion
BYD320,810USD 104.72 billion
Hyundai Motor Group184,660 (approximation)USD 33.73 billion (Hyundai Motor Company
Source of data: Tesla, SAIC Motor, and BYD & Google Finance; HMG sales approximated based on the CEO’s sales target from autonews.com & InsideEVs report.

Featured image source: Tesla