US electric vehicle giant Tesla and China’s BYD are vying with one another for pole position in the global electric car market, but some popular brands are falling further behind, according to a new report.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) released a ranking of the world’s biggest auto makers based on each’s electric car plans and models on sale in 2023. 

While researchers found some manufacturers made significant progress towards low-emission transport over the past year, including Mercedes-Benz and MG, others had fallen down the rankings, notably Japanese manufacturers Suzuki, Mazda, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, all of which have been slammed in the report. 

The ICCT’s Global Automaker Rating 2023 report assessed the EV credentials of 21 popular vehicle brands based on their strategic vision, market dominance and technology performance. 

It found Tesla and BYD lead the world in electric vehicle plans, with the US car maker extended its lead over its Chinese counterpart due to a high sales volume.

In contrast, BYD dropped back slightly as the report found that almost half of its sales were plug-in hybrid vehicles that also rely on petrol, rather than fully-electric models. 

Tesla also trumped rivals for having the best-performing EVs on sale today, scoring top marks for charging speeds, battery range and energy consumption.

Which car makers is out in front at the moment? It probably didn't take much to guess that Tesla is at the peak right now

Which car makers is out in front at the moment? It probably didn’t take much to guess that Tesla is at the peak right now

US electric vehicle maker, Tesla, extended its lead over all its rivals thanks to its high sales volume during 2023, which saw the Tesla Model Y become the world's best-selling new car - the first time this feat has been achieved by an EV. Pictured: Tesla Model 3s lined up in Richmond, California due for delivery

US electric vehicle maker, Tesla, extended its lead over all its rivals thanks to its high sales volume during 2023, which saw the Tesla Model Y become the world’s best-selling new car – the first time this feat has been achieved by an EV. Pictured: Tesla Model 3s lined up in Richmond, California due for delivery

One of the metrics to rate the performance of the 21 manufacturers' EVs was their charging speeds. Tesla scored 100

One of the metrics to rate the performance of the 21 manufacturers’ EVs was their charging speeds. Tesla scored 100

‘Tesla and BYD continued to lead the pack of global manufacturers in the ZEV [zero emission vehicle] transition,’ the research paper concludes. 

‘Both manufacturers already produce only electric vehicles but their future places at the top are not necessarily secure.

‘Looking ahead, BYD will need to shift its 48 per cent sales share of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to full ZEVs and improve the performance of its BEVs. 

‘Both Tesla and BYD will also need to introduce new models across the passenger vehicle class spectrum.’

BYD dropped back from Teslas after the report found that almost half of its sales were plug-in hybrid vehicles that also rely on petrol, rather than fully-electric models

BYD dropped back from Teslas after the report found that almost half of its sales were plug-in hybrid vehicles that also rely on petrol, rather than fully-electric models

BMW, which has been bolstering its range of electric cars with a variety of new models - like the iX3 pictured - was the best-performing European legacy maker

BMW, which has been bolstering its range of electric cars with a variety of new models – like the iX3 pictured – was the best-performing European legacy maker

Mercedes-Benz jumped up five places from 2022, reaching fourth overall in the order. The ICCT praised the German brand for its efforts to recycle and repurpose batteries

Mercedes-Benz jumped up five places from 2022, reaching fourth overall in the order. The ICCT praised the German brand for its efforts to recycle and repurpose batteries

In the overall list of most-advanced EV brands, BMW ranked third, while Mercedes-Benz leapfrogged five places from 2022 to reach fourth in the order having received praise for its efforts to recycle and repurpose batteries.

Chinese giant SAIC, which owns the relaunched MG brand, slotted into fifth spot for its growing sales and improving performance of its electric cars.

The market-wide review found brands based in Japan and India scoring the lowest among the car makers analysed.

The ICCT categorised Tata (JLR's parent company), Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Suzuki as EV 'laggards', while Tesla and BYD are listed as 'leaders' in the electric car race

The ICCT categorised Tata (JLR’s parent company), Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Suzuki as EV ‘laggards’, while Tesla and BYD are listed as ‘leaders’ in the electric car race

It was Suzuki placing last in the list, despite the fact it had increased its EV sales during the year. The ICCT said it lost points based on the small range of low-emission vehicles in its new model line-up and the high energy consumption of these EVs.

It was joined by fellow Japanese makers Mazda, Nissan, Honda and the world’s biggest car seller Toyota in the lowliest positions. 

All these companies – plus Jaguar Land Rover’s Indian parent company Tata – were dubbed ‘laggards’ in the study.

It comes as Toyota, Mazda and Subaru all reached an agreement last month to join forces to continue development of small internal combustion engines.

These will be compatible with hybrid technology and run on synthetic ‘e-fuels’ as part of the triumvirate of car brands’ efforts to double down on shunning an EV-only future.

Suzuki has been slow to switch to electric vehicles, but now has a number of different concept models it is preparing to launch

Suzuki has been slow to switch to electric vehicles, but now has a number of different concept models it is preparing to launch

Mazda already sells this, the MX-30, in the UK. It has a rather disappointing official range of just 124 miles, which might have impacted the ICCT's rating

Mazda already sells this, the MX-30, in the UK. It has a rather disappointing official range of just 124 miles, which might have impacted the ICCT’s rating

Nissan, has been assembling its Leaf EV in Sunderland for just over a decade. Given it has partnered - and invested heavily - with a battery partner to build gigafactories close to its UK manufacturing site, and promised to deliver new EV model by 2030, we're surprised it was rated so low by the ICCT

Nissan, has been assembling its Leaf EV in Sunderland for just over a decade. Given it has partnered – and invested heavily – with a battery partner to build gigafactories close to its UK manufacturing site, and promised to deliver new EV model by 2030, we’re surprised it was rated so low by the ICCT

Both Honda and Toyota have EV models on the market worldwide, but were still listed as 'laggards'

Some Japanese marques are already focussing on developing other green transport solutions that do not rely entirely on batteries, especially Toyota

Japanese brands generally scored low in the ICCT’s review. Some are already focussing on developing other green transport solutions that do not rely entirely on batteries, especially Toyota. Both Honda and Toyota have EV models on the market worldwide, but were still listed as ‘laggards’

The report concluded that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda ‘all need to catch up on diversifying their EV offerings and increase EV investment’. 

ICCT chief program officer Stephanie Searle said the rankings should be considered an ‘important indicator of progress in the transport market’ as manufacturers continue to work towards an end date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035 across major markets, including Australia, Europe, the UK and United States. 

‘Auto makers that are slow to invest in the advanced technology that regulations are designed to promote may soon find themselves outpaced by competitors who more wisely bet on the future,’ Searle said. 

The report found transport regulations in Europe, the UK, US, and Canada were expected to boost electric vehicle sales ‘over the coming years’ and EV sales had increased by 40 per cent worldwide between 2022 and 2023.

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