As I wrote earlier today, electric car sales have been growing exponentially. However, most major car manufacturers aren’t really on board with this transition yet. (In a similar way as Kodak wasn’t really paying close enough attention to the digital camera revolution.) This electric car revolution, so far, has largely been driven by a few companies.
The hottest car company in the world is electric car startup Tesla Motors, though I don’t know if we can call it a "startup" any longer. Seeing the major auto companies take way too long to get serious about electric cars, the founders and early executives of Tesla Motors began producing electric cars in order to speed up the inevitable but delayed transition.
Last year, Tesla was the most-searched car company in the United States on Google. Its stock also flew through the roof. It was widely credited with creating the best car in the world, the Tesla Model S. (Not the best electric car, but the best car). This proclamation came from top auto journalists as well as highly regarding consumer product reviewers at Consumer Reports. Indeed, Tesla’s entrance into the automobile market is known to have driven General Motors (GM) to create the extended-range electric Chevy Volt, and it was probably the same story with the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars.
But Tesla Motors certainly doesn’t deserve all the credit. Actually, the company that has sold the most electric cars is the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The Nissan Leaf is the top-selling electric car to date, and it continues to top the sales charts in the US, Europe, and Japan. The Renault-Nissan Alliance has also sold many units of the Renault Zoe, Renault Kangoo ZE, Renault Twizy, and Renault Fluence ZE. Nissan also just started producing an electric van similar to the Renault Kangoo ZE, the Nissan e-NV200. Tesla gets most of the glory, but Renault-Nissan is the leader in the electric car world by many standards.
In my parts of the world (US and Europe), BYD doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Tesla or even Renault-Nissan, but it is getting more and more, and it deserves a great deal. The BYD e6 has been used for a while in taxi fleets around the world with great results, and BYD has just brought to market a very hot plug-in hybrid called the Qin. The Qin is crushing other plug-in cars in Chinese sales in 2014 and is sure to have a bright future.
However, BYD’s most powerful contribution vehicle-wise might be a bus rather than a car. BYD’s electric bus has successfully gone through pilot programs in South American, North American, European, and Asian cities. While the pilot programs only used a handful of buses, BYD has just seen orders for thousands of its electric buses in a couple of Chinese cities. Furthermore, production has begun in the US, which should allow for big sales there.
BYD's electric vehicles are based off of batteries developed by BYD founder, chairman, executive director, and president, 2014 Zayed Future Energy Lifetime Achievement Prize winner Mr Wang Chuan-fu.
Many other car companies are now offering electric cars, but if I had to pick the top three leaders in this space, they would be these three.
Image Credits: Tesla, Nissan, BYD