Buy the Dip in EV Stocks? Here Are 7 to Consider
If you're looking to gain exposure to electric vehicle stocks while they're still down, here are some names worth watching.
This year hasn't been quite as kind to electric vehicle (EV) stocks as 2020 was. As a case in point, Tesla (TSLA) – the closest thing in this space to an established company – saw its shares rise by 743% last year. But TSLA stock is virtually flat in 2021 vs. a 20% gain for the broader market.
Tesla certainly isn't the only electric vehicle maker struggling to find its mojo this year. The entire sector has lagged as investors have booked profits and cheaper value stocks have come back into favor.
So, what's the story here? Is the epic run in EV stocks over, or is it merely taking a well-deserved break?
Let's start with some fundamentals.
While electric vehicles aren't exactly a novelty anymore, they're just now hitting their stride. Tesla produced about half a million cars last year and expectations are for even more sales in 2021. Its competitors are ramping up production, too. Electrification of the American auto fleet is a priority of the Biden administration, as is seizing global leadership in renewable energy.
"When it comes to renewable energy, this is not something that happens years in the future. It's happening today," says Allister Wilmott, president of ARC Aviation Renewables, a solar-power and LED aviation lighting firm. "Already, about one in 40 new cars is electric. But that number grows every year, and 20% or more of all new car sales will likely be electric by 2030."
The growth is there, and it's happening before our eyes. The question is simply how to best play this trend.
Today, we're going to take a look at seven of the largest and most widely traded EV stocks. This isn't necessarily a recommendation list – some of these electric vehicle stocks might indeed not be right for you.
Every stock on this list is highly speculative, so you should only purchase them if you have a high tolerance for risk. But if you're looking to play the trend of rising consumer embrace of electric vehicles, these EV stocks are the ones you'd want to consider.
Data is as of Aug. 25.
- Market value: $704.1 billion
- Year-to-date return: 0.8%
For many investors, Tesla (TSLA, $711.20) is synonymous with electric vehicles the same way that "Coke" is synonymous with fizzy soft drinks.
There were electric vehicles before Tesla, of course, but no one wanted to drive them. The styling was typically awful and the cars lacked power.
Tesla changed all that. Led by its charismatic CEO Elon Musk, Tesla made electric vehicles cool.
But despite its flat movement in 2021, the EV stock remains wildly expensive. Today, TSLA trades for 19.3 times annual sales. To put that in perspective, Apple (AAPL) – one of the highest-margin hardware makers in history – trades for just 7.3 times sales, and most automakers trade for less than 1 times sales.
Slicing the numbers differently, Tesla hopes to build a million cars this year. At that level and given Tesla's current market cap, investors would be paying more than $700,000 for each car sold.
Investors clearly aren't valuing Tesla like a car company, and perhaps they shouldn't. Based on CEO Elon Musk's decision to invest a good chunk of the company's cash hoard in Bitcoin, you could argue Tesla is now a cryptocurrency hedge fund masquerading as an EV producer.
In any event, investors are valuing it like a high-flying tech startup. And perhaps that's reasonable given the company's leadership in battery technology and autonomous driving. But Tesla is expensive even by tech stock standards.
All the same, a similar argument could have been made at virtually any point over the past 13 years and it would have been equally true. Yet TSLA shares are still where they are today.
- Market value: $69.4 billion
- Year-to-date return: -20.1%
Nio (NIO, $38.95) is a Chinese electric vehicle maker, which makes it interesting for several reasons.
To start, China has far less of a domestic energy industry to support and still imports most of its fossil fuels. This gives the country far more of an incentive to lower energy imports by pushing electric vehicle ownership.
Furthermore, China's air quality is abysmal in most cities, and moving its car fleet from fossil fuels to electric vehicles would certainly help move the needle on that problem.
Last November, China passed new rules requiring that 40% of all car sales in China be electric vehicles by 2030. That's a big deal, to say the least. And as one of China's electric vehicle champions, NIO stock is a way to play the trend of a greener China.
Again, though, you'll need to be careful here.
Chinese stocks do not have the best reputations for clean accounting, and Nio carries a lot of debt to boot. Valuation is unsurprisingly problematic, too. The company isn't profitable, making the calculation of a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio impossible, but its price-to-sales ratio (P/S) of 14.5 looks reasonable when compared to Tesla's 19.3.
NIO's shares are down by nearly 40% from their 52-week highs and have been trending lower since the start of the year. While NIO might still emerge as a global electric vehicle powerhouse, it's never a good idea to chase a stock lower. You might want to wait for the EV stock's price to reverse course and trend higher for a few weeks before nibbling on this one.
- Market value: $35.0 billion
- Year-to-date return: -4.6%
For another play on the Chinese EV market, consider XPeng (XPEV, $40.87), which trades in the U.S. as an American depositary receipt (ADR). The company is based in Guangzhou and went public last August at the peak of the EV stock frenzy. While the shares are still brand new in the U.S. market, XPEV has been in operation since 2014.
XPeng can be thought of as a Chinese version of Tesla. In addition to making electric vehicles, the company is also developing autonomous driving capabilities and operates a network of charging stations.
XPEV currently operates 1,140 stations spread across 164 Chinese cities. This gives the company a significant competitive advantage in its home market, as it allows it to offer free lifetime charging services to its customers.
Its models are still relatively unknown in the United States, but the company's G3 SUV and P7 sedan are best sellers in China. And significantly, the P7 boasts a 440-mile range on a single charge.
As with the other names on this list, XPeng has struggled this year. The electric vehicle stock is down by about 27% from its January highs and more than half from its 2020 highs, though the shares appear to have found at least a short-term bottom in mid-May.
If you believe in the Chinese EV story, XPeng is worth a good look.
- Market value: $31.4 billion
- Year-to-date return: 6.3%
And for one last Chinese EV play, consider Li Auto (LI, $30.64). Li was founded in Beijing in 2015 and went public in the U.S. in July of last year.
The company designs and manufactures premium "smart" electric SUVs. Its first model available for sale was the Li One, a large, six-seat SUV. The company started production in November of 2019, and through December of last year had already delivered 33,500 vehicles.
In 2021, Li has continued that momentum. July deliveries totaled 8,589 – a monthly record and up 251.3% year-over-year.
That's promising, but like many of the stocks on this list, Li is still an early-stage company that has only sold a little more than 70,000 vehicles in its entire history.
The Chinese government is backing the rise of electric vehicles, but you still have to consider these companies highly speculative.
Like the other EV stocks on this list, Li has really struggled in 2021, as the shares have ground lower continuously since November of last year. But for what it's worth, the electric vehicle stock reversed course in May, and has been trending higher the past few months.
- Market value: $388.9 million
- Year-to-date return: -44.4%
If you think an over-indebted, money-losing Chinese carmaker is a speculative play, take a look at Electrameccanica Vehicles (SOLO, $3.44). Electrameccanica is a small Canadian firm with just 119 full-time employees and a market cap of less than $400 million.
You're not really buying a company here. You're buying a concept, as the cars are not fully in production yet.
Electrameccanica sells its cars under the Solo, Tofino and eRoadster brands, and let's just say they're a bit different. The Solo, for example, has only one seat and three wheels, making it look more like a go-cart than a passenger vehicle. But if you're looking for minimal environmental impact, Solo is your car.
SOLO went public in 2018, and it has been a rocky ride.
The shares exploded higher last year but have been trending lower since November. It might be best to wait for some indication this EV stock has bottomed out before considering a new position here. This is an early-stage company and not yet profitable, so proceed with caution.
- Market value: $439.7 million
- Year-to-date return: -11.1%
Arcimoto (FUV, $11.76) gets lumped in with the other electric vehicle makers, but it's not the fairest comparison.
Arcimoto manufactures and sells three-wheeled electric vehicles, including the Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) it bases its stock ticker symbol on. These bright vehicles might be compact and a little unorthodox, but they're highway-legal and capable of handling everyday purposes such as commuting or running errands. And frankly, they look like fun to drive.
The company also sells the Rapid Responder model for emergency, security and law enforcement services, the Deliverator for goods delivery and the Roadster, which resembles a large motorcycle with two front wheels.
Perhaps the best part of FUV's story is that it's not directly competing with Elon Musk and Tesla, which deal in more traditional car categories. Its products are more appropriate for cruising down a boardwalk or tooling around the neighborhood.
Like most of the rest of the EV stocks on this list, Arcimoto is not yet profitable and should be considered speculative.
FUV shares have struggled in 2021. It appeared shares had hit a bottom in mid-May, but after a couple months of recovering, shares dipped hard again in mid-August. We can't know until after the fact whether shares are on the mend, but the intrepid investor might see this as an opportunity to take at least a small position in the stock.
- Market value: $4.2 billion
- Year-to-date return: -4.0%
Many of the EV stocks on this list have the backing of some of the world's most powerful governments. It would seem that Fisker (FSR, $14.06) has the backing of the Almighty Himself.
Well, not exactly.
But Fisker is indeed developing an all-electric transport for Pope Francis: an EV popemobile. FSR plans to modify its Ocean SUV to include a large, retractable glass cupola for His Holiness.
Building a popemobile isn't exactly a high-volume business. But it's certainly good marketing for Fisker.
FSR is still really risky even by the standards of EV stocks. The company isn't planning to start actual production until late 2022. But, its Ocean prototypes are attractive, and it's also possible the company is acquired by a larger automaker wanting instant access to a high-end electric SUV.
Fisker's shares were battered earlier this year, but like several other EV stocks, they started to show signs of life again in mid-May before losing their momentum more recently.
EV stocks are highly speculative, and FSR stands out even in this group given the stage of production it is in. So, for any investors wanting to take a stab at this one, they might want to keep their position size modest.