Expert lays out why last year was a 'perfect storm' to slow down EVs — and explains 3 reasons China is winning the race for electrification

China electric car
A Chinese automaker recently overtook Tesla as the top EV seller in the world. REUTERS/China Daily
  • 2023 was a "perfect storm" for electric vehicles, one expert says.

  • Prices for EVs remain stubbornly high, limiting further growth.

  • Chinese automakers have found a way to profit while selling cheaper vehicles to more people.

Last year marked a dramatic shift for automakers and their transition to electric vehicles.

After years of growth, demand slowed as new competition hit the market, and a wave of early adopters gave way to a more price-sensitive customer.

That's led to some soul-searching among manufacturers, some of whom have reduced their manufacturing plans in step. High interest rates and expensive charging didn't help.


It was all a "perfect storm" on a macroeconomic level for the industry, according to Nikolaus Lang, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group and expert in the mobility industry.

"Now, we need to do this next step toward much more of a volume segment," he told Business Insider on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "You cannot have EVs that cost $70,000, $80,000, you need to get EVs down to $30,000 or less. I think that's something the industry is still working on."

The average price for a new EV has fallen dramatically, to $50,789 by December 2023 from above $64,000 the year prior, according to Kelley Blue Book. But EV prices are still about 28% more expensive than average gas-vehicle prices, an analysis by CarGurus found.

That's helped usher in a "new realism when it comes to alternative power trains," Lang said. Hybrids have excelled in popularity as an emissions-conscious option at a cheaper price without some of the classic EV worries, like range anxiety or charging.

What the US still can't figure out 

While American automakers continue to churn out massive, heavy EVs that sell for high prices to a small niche of the market, Chinese automakers like BYD have produced mass-market vehicles for a fraction of the cost.

Lang laid out three reasons China is finding success where competitors are struggling:

  1. Scale

"The Chinese OEMs are already profiting off a large domestic market," he said. "So they are very quick when it comes to scale, which other OEMs do not yet have because the market in Europe and in the US is limited," he said. (OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers, is an industry term for automakers).

  1. Battery technology

"China has always been at the forefront when it comes to battery technology, and that helps these players who are closely connected to the battery production," he said.

  1. Regulation 

"The Chinese OEMs have also profited off of a regulatory environment of government incentives, which allowed them to take off, I would say, earlier in a bolder fashion," he said.

"The Chinese EV players are here to stay," he continued.

Chinese automakers have begun exporting their cheaper models to Latin America and parts of Europe. They may eventually try entering the US market, Lang said, but it might not be easy given all the local competition and incentives to buy domestically. 

Read the original article on Business Insider