Innovation in e-mobility: Two winners and some surprising laggards

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The Center of Automotive Management (CAM) assessed the innovative strength of 32 car manufacturers on the basis of 291 innovations in the field of electric mobility. The top innovator in the technology field of battery electric vehicles (BEV) remains Tesla by a clear margin. “Fast followers” are Volkswagen in second place, the Chinese manufacturer BYD in third place and the Hyundai Group in fourth place. In addition to BYD, Geely, BAIC and SAIC also made it into the top ten of the most innovative BEV carmakers – a clear indicator for the growing innovation strength of China’s BEV makers.

To assess the innovation strength, the analysts looked at the innovations of the series-produced electric cars in the areas of range, consumption and charging performance in terms of improving customer benefits.

The Californian industry leader Tesla increased its lead by 45 index points thanks to strong innovations in the areas of range and charging performance and now has a BEV innovation strength of 159 index points (IP). Volkswagen can maintain second place with 123 IP and an increase of 37 points, mainly due to high segment ranges and charging performance of the VW ID.3 model as well as further innovations from Porsche (Taycan) and Audi (e-tron). BYD makes a big jump (+23 IP) to 3rd place, benefiting from innovations of the BYD Han EV. BYD thus also overtakes Hyundai, which after high growth in the previous year can only make moderate gains in 2020 (+9 IP).

Innovation strenght of BEV vendors in 2020/21021 (Source: CAM)

Despite high sales figures, the group of followers includes Renault, which is still just ahead of General Motors in fifth place with 41 points. Geely made a leap forward in innovation, catapulting itself from 15th to 7th place, mainly thanks to innovations from its subsidiaries Volvo and Polestar. While BAIC and PSA in 8th and 9th place, respectively, show only a low BEV innovation performance, the Chinese SAIC Group improves by 10 places and makes it into the top ten mainly thanks to innovations of its Roewe brand with the Marvel X and ER6 models.

Many established car manufacturers have a lot of catching up to do in terms of electric innovations, as they are only making slow progress in the transition to battery-electric mobility. These include the German premium manufacturers Daimler and BMW, which only manage 11th and 13th place respectively. While Daimler is able to improve somewhat compared to the previous year due to innovations in the EQC and EQV models (+11 IP), BMW largely lacked innovations last year (+4 IP). Disappointingly, established manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda are only “laggards” (23rd and 24th respectively) in battery electric vehicles.

Global sales of BEVs as of 2021. Source: CAM

“The established car manufacturers have to brace themselves,” comments study head Stefan Bratzel. “Because in the next few years, considerable innovation momentum can be expected not only from Tesla, but also from newcomers to electric mobility such as Lucid Motors and the Chinese manufacturers Nio and Xpeng.” Those who are too late in e-mobility, the analyst warns, are taking a “high risk.””

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