A new report by the ICCT has listed the world’s top 20 automakers and their performance on EV sales to date, and Tata Motors is the only one from India to find a spot (table 1). However, it ranks only above Mazda and Suzuki (both headquartered in Japan) and together they bring up the last three entries.

Table 1: The Global Automaker Ranking, 2022

Source: ICCT

The issue with Indian OEMs

This poses the question of why other Indian OEMs are missing from the list. For instance, as India’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki will only launch its fully-electric SUV in 2024. Even for Tata, the gap between its score of 27 (overall) is a far cry from Tesla’s (83) and BYD’s (73), and its technology performance score is a mere 41 where Tesla scored 80.

One plausible reason is that India lacks the density of EV chargers needed for customers to spend the extra money and buy an electric car in the first place, so the OEMs manufacture less of them to begin with. As of March 24, 2023, it only had 6,586 public EV chargers while its car market stands at 1.6 million units sold in 2022. And although Tata’s Nexon EV and Tigor EV together account for a staggering 86% of India's electric car sales, most of the sales come from urban centres where the cars’ driving ranges are adequate to suit the owners’ commuting requirements.

Another issue is the fact that in general, Indian OEMs do not manufacture vehicles to compete against their foreign counterparts in the western markets. Maruti Suzuki, Tata (fig. 1) and Mahindra sell their cars in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, other Asian markets and select European nations, but their crash test ratings, engine capacities and overall build qualities do not appeal to most western buyers. Consequently, the focus is to build and sell to the Indian customer, which predisposes them to allocate a majority of their resources to the IC engine.

Fig. 1: Tata’s Xenon Euro5 model for the Italian market | Image: Indianautosblog.com

Other findings

The report itself takes a new approach to EV OEM rankings and includes novel factors, such as the degree to which an automaker has committed to and achieved 100% renewable energy usage in its process chain, and if its director(s)’ compensations are linked to the number of EVs sold. Some of the inferences that can be drawn are:

  • Chinese players dominate the rankings but lag behind in technology performance
    5 of the top 20 OEMs (25%) are Chinese, with BYD and Geely ranking 2nd and 6th in overall rankings. Yet in technological performance, their scores are lacklustre because the ranking methodology accounts for 5 factors under this category:

    1. Vehicle’s energy consumption
    2. Charging speed
    3. Driving range
    4. Upstream emissions
    5. Battery recycling and repurposing

    These parameters reveal that while China’s volume of EV sales in the domestic market alone is greater than the rest of the world put together — it sold nearly 6 million EVs in 2022 — the vehicles are not the best in terms of efficiency, on-road performance or their embodied carbon emissions. This is not surprising as most EVs sold within China are mass-market models that can afford to have at-best average “fuel efficiency” and driving ranges, given that the country also leads the world in installed EV chargers (5.21 million in 2022). Also, around 61% of China’s power comes from coal, versus EV battery manufacturer Northvolt’s factory in northern Sweden that is 100% powered by renewable energy (fig. 2).

    Fig. 2: Northvolt’s battery gigafactory in northern Sweden | Image: Telegraph UK

    China has, however, made battery recycling a part of its five year plan and its domestic battery recycling industry is expected to grow to USD 20.3 billion by 2030.

  • German automakers rank average in EV vision but higher in technology performance
    The report shows that BMW, VW and Mercedes Benz scored 57, 47 and 47 respectively under Strategic Vision, but 78, 63 and 53 (respectively) under technology performance. This points to the fact that all three OEMs cater predominantly to the European, North American and Chinese markets, with BMW and Mercedes at the higher end of the scale. That is where luxury and high performance vehicles, such as BMW’s M series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Mercedes S-Class find the most buyers, and where there is the most demand for naturally-aspirated or turbocharged IC engines.

    Fig. 3: BMW’s new i7 EV has been praised for its performance and refinement | Image: BMW

    Yet, both manufacturers have also launched their flagship EV models, the i7 (fig. 3) and the EQS. This indicates that while most of their sales in the near future will continue to come from the IC engine, their defining characteristic of high quality vehicles will be carried over into their EV lineup. Also BMW already sources only green energy for its production facilities, Mercedes plans to source 70% green energy for its factories by 2030 and 96% of VW’s power for its European plants comes from green sources. It plans to extend this to 100% by 2024 and go carbon-neutral (globally) by 2050.

  • Japanese automakers lag in vision for EVs
    Mazda, Toyota and Suzuki all ranked even below Tata in their vision for EVs, which is an indicator of their allocation of resources to switching their lineups to electric cars. Honda and Nissan ranked higher than Tata, but Nissan is the only Japanese OEM at the moment to link its CEO’s compensation to the number of EVs sold. Toyota’s CEO has been in the news for his comments about not wanting to switch to EVs but hydrogen fuel cells instead, while Mazda’s new Skyactiv line of engines (fig. 4) delivers excellent fuel economy.

    Fig. 4: Mazda’s Skyactive engines use high compression ratios for great fuel efficiency | Image: Autonews

    The manufacturer has launched the MX30 EV in North America, but its 100 mile (160km) range has been panned by the critics.

    In contrast, BYD and Stellantis (headquartered in the Netherlands) scored 100 under this parameter — apart from Tesla — while BMW, GM, and Mercedes Benz scored 80, 57 and 12, respectively. This shows their commitment to dominating the e-mobility space.

Automakers must do more to embrace EVs

The ICCT report will be revised next year but for now, it shows that a significant amount of effort needs to be directed towards the product lineups of the Japanese and Indian carmakers. Tesla is the benchmark for all EV OEMs and Chinese manufacturers have done well to tailor their products to the domestic customer. They are now also launching slightly more expensive vehicles for the European market, where they will eventually gain a stronger foothold.

Meanwhile, Indian automakers specifically must work with the authorities and technology companies to install more EV charging points and retail affordable electric options. Doing so will grow their EV sales and at the same time give the OEMs a product lineup that, if so designed, could garner strong sales outside India as well.