The stock of new energy vehicles in China is the world's largest, with cumulative sales of 5.5 million units through December 2020. These figures include passenger cars and heavy-duty commercial vehicles such buses and sanitation trucks, and only accounts for vehicles manufactured in the country. Of these, there were 4.9 million new energy vehicles in use at the end of 2020, accounting for 1.75% of all vehicles in circulation in China.
The Chinese government uses the term new energy vehicles (NEVs) to designate plug-in electric vehicles eligible for public subsidies, and includes only battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
Sales of new energy vehicles since 2011 passed the 500,000 unit milestone in March 2016, and the 1 million mark in early 2017, both, excluding imports. Cumulative sales of new energy passenger cars achieved the 500,000 unit milestone in September 2016, and 1 million by the end of 2017. Domestically produced passenger cars account for 96% of new energy car sales in China.
As of December 2020, China had the largest stock of highway legal plug-in passenger cars with over 4.5 million units, 42% of the global plug-in car fleet in use. China also dominates the plug-in light commercial vehicle and electric bus deployment, with its stock reaching over 500,000 buses in 2019, 98% of the global stock, and 247,500 electric light commercial vehicles, 65% of the global fleet. In addition, the country also leads sales of medium- and heavy duty electric trucks, with over 12,000 trucks sold, and nearly all battery electric.
China has been the world's best-selling plug-in electric passenger car market for five years running, from 2015 to 2019, with annual sales rising from more than 207,000 plug-in passenger cars in 2015, to 579,000 in 2017, and just over million units both in 2018 and 2019. A particular feature of the Chinese passenger plug-in market is the dominance of small entry level vehicles, in 2015 representing 87% of total pure electric car sales, while 96% of total plug-in hybrid car sales were in the compact segment.
BYD Auto ended 2015 as the world's best selling manufacturer of highway legal light-duty plug-in electric vehicles, and for a second year running was the world's top selling plug-in car manufacturer with over 100,000 units delivered in 2016. During 2016 BYD became the world's all-time second largest plug-in electric passenger car manufacturer after the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The BYD Qin was the top selling new energy passenger car for two years in a row, 2014 and 2015. The BYD Tang was the best selling plug-in passenger car in 2016. Until December 2016, the Qin ranked as the all-time top selling plug-in electric car in the country with 68,655 units sold since its inception. The BAIC EC-Series all-electric city car was the top selling plug-in car in 2017, and with 78,079 units sold, it also listed as world's top selling plug-in car in 2017.
The government's political support for the adoption of electric vehicles has four goals, to create a world-leading industry that would produce jobs and exports; energy security to reduce its oil dependence which comes from the Middle East; to reduce urban air pollution; and to reduce its carbon emissions. In June 2012 the State Council of China published a plan to develop the domestic energy-saving and new energy vehicle industry. The plan set a sales target of 500,000 new energy vehicles by 2015 and 5 million by 2020. As sales of new energy vehicles were slower than expected, in September 2013, the central government introduced a subsidy scheme providing a maximum of US$9,800 toward the purchase of an all-electric passenger vehicle and up to US$81,600 for an electric bus.