Electric Vehicle Sales Review Q2-2021

China is getting back on track as the global electric vehicle powerhouse


Accelerating over a bump

The global transition towards electric vehicles continues to gather momentum. The largest European markets are playing a significant role in this transition. Meanwhile China has resumed its position as global volume leader, and the US market is starting to show real promise.

Although absolute sales of BEVs and PHEVs actually fell in Europe in the first quarter of 2021 from the record highs of the previous quarter, this can be attributed to registrations of vehicles that were brought forward to meet sales and CO2 targets at the end of a dismal 2020 for the auto industry. Taking a longer perspective, we cannot fail to observe an accelerating trend in EV sales which confirms that actual market developments are vindicating forecasts of major disruption in the auto industry. Germany in particular, and France and the UK to a lesser degree, are largely driving these positive developments in Europe. For example, the pure BEV market share in Germany has increased from 1.7% to 9.9% in just two years.

The United States market is also readying for a second stage of growth, boosted by federal, state and city incentives and significant investment in public charging infrastructure promised by the new administration. In Q1 2021, sales of BEVs and PHEVs increased by 63% and 60% respectively relative to 2020.

China continues to be the largest BEV market in terms of sales volume, comprising more than 60% of global sales in the first quarter. On top of that, the BEV market share has regained the global lead from Europe, up from 3.5% to 8.5% in the two years from 2019 to 2021.

Top findings

  • Electric cars establish themselves independently of government subsidies
  • With an electric vehicle share of 34.6% in Q1/2021, Europe leads the core markets ahead of China with 11% and the USA with 7.3%
  • New registrations of plug-in hybrids rise by +184% year-on-year in the five European core markets, pure battery drives increase by +80%

E-Mobility Sales Data

France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK

BEV and PHEV sales fell visibly in the top five European markets compared with the final quarter of 2020, but this can be largely attributed to advanced registrations required to meet the CO2 and sales targets for the full year 2020.

What is more revealing in terms of the overall trend is the comparison with the first quarter of 2020, and with previous years. BEV sales were up by 80% compared to Q1 2020, and PHEVs by 184%. The respective market shares were 6.7% and 7.4% respectively, compared to 3.8% and 2.6% in Q1 2020, and 1.2% and 0.8% in Q1 2019 - strong proof of continued, accelerating growth.

Germany is leading the way among the top 5 markets, with a BEV market share of 9.9% in the first quarter, up from merely 1.8% two years ago in Q1 2019. The United Kingdom (7.5%) and France (6.9%) come next. Given their size and high revenue per vehicle, these markets are playing a vital role in the transition of the global automotive industry towards electric vehicles.

Further European markets (+5)

BEV sales in Austria showed the largest growth among the five other European markets covered, with a rise of 173% relative to Q1 2020. BEV sales in Switzerland increased by 52% in the same period, while conventional vehicles now permanently constitute a minority in the Norwegian new vehicle market.


The United States market is finally showing signs of long-term structural transformation, supported by expanding subsidies and promised investment in infrastructure by the new administration.

Sales of BEVs, PHEVs and hybrids all enjoyed significant percentage increases in comparison with the first quarter of last year, albeit starting from a low base. There was even a small increase in overall EV sales from the fourth quarter of 2020, as the artificially boosted registrations that we saw in Europe were not prevalent.

Market shares are also creeping up as the number of available EV models expands. BEVs recorded a market share of 2.1% in January, an almost twofold increase from 1.1% in the equivalent month last year. Plug-in hybrids are only just starting to find their way into premium brands’ line-ups. The market share of traditional hybrids was 4.5% for Q1 2021, compared to 1.8% in the first quarter of last year.


Sales comparisons with the first quarter of 2020 can be discarded due to the early lockdown in China last year. Although absolute sales fell in comparison with the last quarter of 2020 due to a planned 20% cut in point-of-sales subsidies for NEVs (new energy vehicles), there has been a steady increase in BEV market share over recent months. It now stands at 8.5%, surpassing Western Europe once again.


Japan’s EV market continues to rely almost exclusively on the sale of hybrids, sales of which increased by 9% in comparison with the first quarter of 2020 to 302,000, accounting for a 40% market share. Meanwhile, BEV sales remain low, with a market share of 0.7%, although they are expected to increase significantly due to a growing number of product offers, both imports and domestic brands.

South Korea

The South Korean EV market is dominated by hybrids, with a market share of 11%, compared to 3.1% and 1.0% for BEVs and PHEVs respectively. In order to boost the EV market, the government has increased its overall subsidy budget, although the most expensive cars are not eligible for the sales subsidy.

About the "Electric Vehicle Sales Review" by PwC and Strategy&

PwC Autofacts® and Strategy& have analyzed electric vehicle sales worldwide in the first quarter of 2021.

Contact us

Felix Kuhnert

Felix Kuhnert

Partner, PwC Germany

Dr. Jörn Neuhausen

Dr. Jörn Neuhausen

Director, Strategy& Germany