2016 BYD Tang plug-in hybrid SUV, made in ChinaEnlarge Photo
Time for a quick quiz: which carmaker sold more plug-in electric vehicles last year—both battery electrics and plug-in hybrids—than any other?
If you're a reader in North America or Europe who managed to miss our headline, odds are you may answer "Tesla" or "Nissan," based on media coverage of those two companies' achievements.
You would be wrong, however.
For the second year in a row, the company that sold the most cars with plugs globally is Chinese maker BYD.
It squeaked past the 100,000 mark for 2016, totaling deliveries of 100,178 vehicles: 46,905 battery electrics and 53,273 plug-in hybrids.
That's a more even balance between the two types of electric vehicles than in 2015, when plug-in hybrids outnumbered all-electrics by more than 4 to 1.
BYD Qin EV300Enlarge Photo
Year-end figures released by the company indicate that in 2016, it delivered 21,868 Qin plug-in hybrids and 31,405 Tangs, for a plug-in hybrid total of more than 53,000.
Battery-electric vehicles included 20,605 of the older e6, now with a larger battery of more than 80 kilowatt-hours (giving it an EPA-rated range of 187 miles).
On top of that are 10,656 Qin EV models, and 15,639 of the e5 battery-electric compact sedan.
The battery-electric total of 46,905 also includes exactly 5 T3 small electric commercial vans.
But this year BYD did not include any of the Denza compact hatchbacks it builds in a joint venture with Daimler among its plug-in passenger car and SUV total.
For the record, those are all highway-capable cars; the numbers don't include what would be defined in North America as low-speed or neighborhood electric vehicles.
BYD e6 electric taxi in Bogota, Colombia [screen capture from CNN news report]Enlarge Photo
It did note, however, that it also sold 13,278 all-electric buses across six different models, and a total of 859 battery-electric commercial trucks in no fewer than 12 different variants.
In contrast, the Renault Nissan Alliance appears to have sold fewer than 100,000 battery-electric vehicles this year (primarily its Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe models).
Silicon Valley luxury electric-car maker Tesla, meanwhile, delivered 76,230 of its luxury electric Model S hatchback and Model X crossover utility vehicle.
(Tesla noted that it built almost 84,000 vehicles last year, however.)
Since 2015, both national and state governments in China have boosted the incentives available for purchase and registration of so-called New Energy Vehicles, essentially those with a plug.
While there is little guarantee that plug-in hybrids that qualify for the incentives will ever be plugged in by apartment-dwelling buyers, that's not the case with battery electrics.
That makes BYD's split last year of near 50-50 an encouraging sign that Chinese buyers will actually plug in their battery-operated vehicles.