China was once unrivaled in electric vehicle (EV) sales. Now, Europe threatens its dominance.
 
It has been five years since China surpassed the US to become the world’s biggest EV market. Growth in China’s EV market was swift thanks to heavy government support in the form of subsidies. But this year Europe is set to dethrone China as the global EV sales leader, picking up critical momentum despite widespread disruption from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

China, a global manufacturing hub for automobiles, has historically produced entry level, low-priced cars, lagging behind the West in cutting-edge vehicle technologies. Now, facing a battle on two fronts, Chinese EV makers are attempting to shake this image as they gear up to expand abroad. There’s a lot at stake. They’ve already been beaten by overseas auto giants in their home market—or joined forces with them, casting a shadow on Beijing’s ambitions to create homegrown EV leaders.

Analysts expect growth in China’s EV market to recover in the next few years, although only marginally—high price tags and a lack of charging facilities remain key roadblocks to EV adoption. Still, as Europe collectively accelerates its transition towards low-carbon transport, it raises a number of questions. What do China and Europe’s EV markets look like? Will China’s head start in EV technology give it an edge? Can China really fulfill its goal of developing its own EV leaders?

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Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen