A surge in electric vehicle purchases in China is drawing investors. They need a reality check.


A quick review of the numbers: Passenger vehicle sales rose 9.5% in October from a year earlier, and have grown every month since May. Green cars, like hybrids and pure electrics, are standouts: Sales are up more than 50%. Stock prices for companies like BYD Co. and NIO Inc. have more than doubled this year. New model launches have boosted sentiment as local automakers incline toward carbon-free. Beijing wants such cars to account for 20% of all sales by 2025.

There’s no doubt that the path is toward a greener future, where electric cars and even more expensive hydrogen-powered vehicles dominate. But here’s the reality right now. Gasoline-powered auto sales are rising, too, around 6%, with 1.9 million manufactured domestically sold in September. 1 This segment accounts for around 90% of passenger cars sold monthly in the world’s largest market, where over 20 million autos were sold last year. Sport utility vehicles and other traditional-engine models that were beginning to find favor pre-slowdown aren’t seeing a big rebound yet.


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