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China’s new energy commercial vehicle sales up 30% to surpass 300k units in 2023

Commercial Vehicles

February 2024

Yvonne Zhang

Research Associate

Yvonne joined Interact Analysis as a Research Associate to assist the research team with organizing, interpreting findings, and enhancing product outputs. She has a master's degree in Finance and has research experience in the Industrial Automation sector after her studies in the United States.

Despite the phase-out of national subsidies, registrations of new energy commercial vehicles in China maintained their momentum in 2023, growing by 29.8% year-on-year to a record high of 308,531 units. As a result, the penetration rate reached 10.8%, an increase of 1.6 percentage points compared with 2022. It’s worth analyzing some highlights from the market-driven new energy commercial vehicles industry last year.

Despite the phase-out of incentives, new energy commercial vehicle sales in China remain strong

Robust sales of new energy light-duty commercial vehicles

In 2023, registrations of new energy light-duty commercial vehicles reached 242,000 units, marking a significant increase of 46.4% compared with 2022 and much higher growth than other vehicle types. New energy light-duty commercial vehicles further enhanced its position as the leading vehicle type, constituting 78.4% of overall new energy commercial vehicle sales last year. This is primarily due to application scenarios for light-duty commercial vehicles, especially in urban logistics, lending themselves more easily to electrification.

Benefiting from the surge in the new energy light-duty commercial vehicle market, each of the top eight new energy commercial vehicle OEMs achieved sales exceeding 10,000 units in 2023. Among them, manufacturers focusing on light-duty commercial vehicles witnessed year-on-year sales doubling. For example, Geely, with its new energy light-duty commercial vehicles accounting for 92.6% of its total sales, has been leading the market for 20 consecutive months. Geely sold over 73,000 units of new energy commercial vehicles in 2023, up by 104.7% year-on-year.

At the same time, due to the relatively lower energy density of light-duty commercial vehicles, the growth rate of battery installation was slower than the growth rate of overall commercial vehicle sales in 2023. Total battery installation reached 28.8 GWh, up by 8.5% year-on-year compared with the 55.1% annual growth rate in 2022. Average battery installation per vehicle unit in 2023 was 94.0 kWh, lower than the 138.3 kWh recorded in 2021 and 113.7 kWh in 2022.

Strong growth is being seen in the new energy light-duty truck market

Diversification of new energy heavy-duty trucks

In 2023, total registrations of heavy-duty trucks reached 34,000 units, marking a year-on-year increase of 36.1% and outperforming the market average. The penetration rate of new energy heavy-duty trucks increased to 5.5%. Sales of battery electric heavy-duty trucks grew by 34.3% to 30,000 units compared with 2022, with battery-swapping heavy-duty trucks accounting for nearly half of the total.

Battery electric heavy-duty trucks dominated with a market share of 88.9%. Registrations of fuel cell heavy-duty trucks reached 3,612 units, up by 46.9% year-on-year and increasing market share by 0.8 percentage points to 10.6%. Hybrid heavy-duty trucks, mainly semi-towing trailers, saw 183 units sold at a remarkable growth rate of 471.9%.

Sales of fuel cell commercial vehicles reached 7,177 units

In 2023, the sales of fuel cell commercial vehicles reached a record high of 7,177 units, representing year-on-year growth of 50.1%. December saw 2,247 units sold, contributing over 30% of the total annual sales. The performance of fuel cell commercial vehicles was below market expectations at the beginning of 2023. Despite strong growth in market sales, there is still a considerable way to go in order to reach the target of 50,000 fuel cell vehicle population by 2025.

In terms of vehicle type, fuel cell heavy-duty trucks remained the leading segment, accounting for 50.3% of total sales. Due to stagnant demand in the overall large- and medium-sized urban bus market, the proportion of fuel cell large- and medium-sized buses decreased by 4.8% to 18.3%. In addition, sales of fuel cell light-duty commercial vehicles totaled 2,127 units for the year, up by 162.9% year-on-year, representing a market share of 29.6%. Of these, over 60% are light-duty cold chain logistics vehicles and insulated vehicles.

During the same period, installed fuel cell systems reached 701.2 MW,  translating into year-on-year growth of 50.5%. Due to sales of fuel cell light-duty vehicles, the average installed power rating for fuel cell systems of commercial vehicles per unit was 97.7 kW, nearly unchanged from 2022 (97.4 kW). It’s worth noting that fuel cell heavy-duty trucks – the mainstream fuel cell commercial vehicles – saw an increase in per-vehicle power rating of fuel cell systems from 111.9 kW in 2022 to 115.6 kW in 2023.

Hybrid commercial vehicles show a remarkable sales increase

Hybrid commercial vehicles experienced a surge in sales during 2023 due to falling costs, right of way for new energy vehicles, and increased flexibility in recharging. Sales of hybrid vehicles witnessed a significant year-on-year increase of 116.2%, to 6,711 units last year, making it the fastest-growing powertrain type. As a result of weak market demand, the proportion of sales accounted for by large-sized buses (the main hybrid vehicle models in 2022) dropped substantially from 50.8% to 16.0% in 2023. Meanwhile, hybrid light-duty trucks became largest segment in 2023, with total sales of 5,120 units, an increase of 2.7 times compared with 2022.

For more information on the new energy bus and truck market in China, contact Shirly Zhu or Yvonne Zhang. Visit our web page to download a report brochure and a sample monthly report and database.

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