Incentives play a key role in electric-vehicle sales (Photo: Nissan)

China is expanding its leadership position in electric vehicles, according to two new studies.

Germany's Center of Automotive Management (CAM) said carmakers sold 170,000 EVs in China in the first six months of 2016, compared with 66,000 in the US, 22,000 in Norway and 16,000 in France.

EV sales rose in each of these countries, but none could match the 133 pc sales increase posted in China.

Government incentives are a major factor in explaining the sharply higher Chinese sales, according to management consultants McKinsey. "In China, automakers and authorities are systematically working to make electric vehicles more attractive to customers," senior McKinsey partner Nicolai Mueller said in a statement.

The consultants found that Chinese sales of more than 100,000 EVs in the last quarter of 2015 could be directly attributed to financial incentives and advantages offered in registering the vehicles.

EV sales continue to represent a minuscule part of the overall new-car market. In the first half of 2016, CAM said they stood at 1.54 pc of sales in China; 1.47 pc in the US and 1.36 pc in the UK.

In Germany, EV sales were stable at 0.6 pc of the overall market, but new incentives that took effect July 1 could provide a boost in the second half. CAM warned, however, that German EV demand in the first 10 sales days of July stood at a  mere 936 vehicles.