Electric vehicle sales numbers for 2021 – both domestically and globally – began to deteriorate this month, revealing a growing acceptance of electric vehicles by drivers.
Tesla, now the world’s most valuable automaker by market value and the leader in electric vehicle sales in many markets, said in the early days of January that it had delivered 936,000 electric vehicles in 2021 — nearly double the number in 2020.
With its Shanghai plant now ramping up to full production, and two more electric car plants in Berlin, Germany, and Austin, Texas to open in 2022, it’s showing very few signs of slowing down, even amid the pandemic and supply chain challenges.
In Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) reported 5,149 electric vehicles sold in 2021, triple sales compared to 2020 – at least according to the automakers that share their data with the industry body.
Tesla has been known to not report its domestic sales numbers to FCAI, which means that The Driven’s EV sales reports throughout 2021 have been supplemented with shipping data.
Conservative estimates put total sales of electric vehicles in Australia including Tesla for 2021 at 15,000. It is believed that somewhere between 10,000-12,000 Model 3s arrived in Australia in 2021, although any that arrived in December may still be in the works. The transfer is therefore not yet officially registered as a sale to the customer. The last ship to arrive in Australia was in 2021 with Tesla cars on board on December 30, for example.
In addition to Tesla, we can reveal that the best-selling EV domestically in 2021 was the MG ZS EV, which is still officially the cheapest EV in Australia with prices under $45,000.
The Chinese company MG sold 1,354 ZS EVs, and this was followed by the Porsche Taycan, which sells from $156,300 before driving on the roads. There were 531 taiks registered in 2021.
Next on the list is the Hyundai Kona EV with 505 sold. The Hyundai Ioniq EV fastback, which sells for less than $55,000, also did well with 338 sold, but narrowly failed to beat the EQC’s premium electric SUV. Mercedes-Benz sold 360 of them in 2021, while it sold 192 EQA compact SUVs.
It’s not yet confirmed exactly how many electric Mini Coopers will be sold in 2021 but our estimates are around 350, while Nissan sold 370 Leafs and Kia sold 217 e Niros.
Hyundai has delivered 172 of the Ioniq 5 since its arrival in September, and the South Korean automaker says it has more guaranteed inventory.
Expect the numbers coming from January to include the Polestar, and possibly even the Kia EV6, which will launch this weekend at the Melbourne Open.
While the growing electric car sales numbers are encouraging, the exact nature of the transition isn’t entirely clear because reports from various sources aren’t transparent, and much of it centered around the company that has probably had the most influence in changing the face of the car industry: Tesla.
As noted above, domestic Tesla sales are only routed by charging data from Twitter user and tracker Vedaprime, but it has its limitations.
Even globally, Tesla itself is not completely transparent with its numbers. Although CEO and co-founder Elon Musk has said he believes Tesla will sell more Model Ys than its other electric models combined, the EV maker is compiling Model 3 sales numbers with the Model Y, and the Model S with the Model X.
Why is it so hard to understand as the company’s press division, which has been completely disbanded – even in Australia. Instead, the company’s public communications consist of a mixture of tweets from Musk, occasional blog posts, and investor posts.
Canberra Times correspondent Peter Brewer says that locally, Tesla is not reporting sales figures due to a “protracted dispute” with FCAI, saying the electric vehicle maker does not want to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars” based on how many vehicles it has sold.
However, Tesla’s unorthodox approach has clearly not hurt its sales (see figures above).
But Tesla’s ambiguous positions combined with the way industry and government numbers are released mean that the numbers are timely, complete and transparent almost impossible.
Lengthy delays in registration reports from state departments, and the combination of plug-in hybrid electric and plug-in propulsion under one umbrella also blemishes the picture. Automakers are useful but the more electric vehicles enter the domestic market, the longer the hashed data recovery process will take.
Perhaps one light at the end of the tunnel is that the FCAI says it may consider reviewing the way it reports on car sales. Although since 2021 it has separated drivetrains as a whole, with electric, hydrogen, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars listed separately, models that sell with multiple drivetrains have sales numbers grouped together.
While this doesn’t solve the Tesla problem, it would be a huge step forward.
Brady Schmidt is an associate editor at The Driven, the sister site to Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role zero-emissions transportation should play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is a co-organizer of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 which is available for rental at evee.com.au.