Why Electric Vehicle Stocks Continue to Soar

With the U.S. presidential vote tally still in flux, electric vehicle (EV) makers enjoyed a move higher Wednesday on expectations that Democrat Joe Biden will win the still-undecided electoral votes in Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. If he does, he will reach the required 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Betting on a political victory in the current environment may be a fool’s errand, though. A better gauge, perhaps, is raised ratings on EV stocks from Citigroup analyst Jeff Chung.

On Wednesday morning, Chung maintained his Buy rating on shares of Nio Ltd. (NYSE: NIO) and raised his price target on the stock from $33.20 to a street-high $46.60. Even though Nio’s order backlog only totals 7,000 units, that’s double its level at the end of September. The higher backlog implies improved margins, especially if the company can continue to raise both its production and its orders.

Chung also initiated coverage on Li Auto Inc. (NASDAQ: LI) and XPeng Inc. (NYSE: XPEV). Li Auto was started with a Hold rating and a price target of $27 per share. Xpeng snagged a Buy rating and a price target of $56.

Here’s a little closer look at each of these stocks and, for comparison, EV leader Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA).

Nio’s shares traded at around $38.75 Wednesday morning, after posting a new 52-week high of $38.89. The stock traded at about 0.4% below its 52-week high, but around 20% below Citi’s price target. The consensus price target on the stock is $20.63, implying an upside of around 47%.

XPeng’s stock also posted a new 52-week high Wednesday, at $26.29, and traded recently at $25.90, about 1.5% below the new high but around 32% below Citi’s target. The consensus price target on the stock is $24.70, implying a potential upside of 6%.

Li Auto is the third China-based EV maker to set a new 52-week high Wednesday. The stock reached a new high of $27.67 and currently trades at around $27.00, just 1.7% below the new high and a mere 2% below’s Citi’s new target. The consensus price target on the stock is $19.77, implying a potential upside on the shares of around 24%.

Tesla traded essentially flat Wednesday morning, at $423.91 in a 52-week range of $62.90 to $502.49. At that recent price, there is no upside on a consensus price target of $349.79. Interestingly, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli reiterated late last month his Sell rating on Tesla stock and his price target of $117 a share.

A Biden presidency, if it comes, is likely to face stiff opposition to any plan that would favor EVs over fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. Republicans appear poised to hold the Senate and, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, moving legislation that will have a dramatic impact on mitigating climate change is going to be difficult.

On top of that, China has reduced its spending on clean energy initiatives and EV subsidies for Chinese consumers. While the country’s economy is in better shape than many, it still depends heavily on exports, and the increased spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and Europe that is forcing new lockdown measures. Although none of the Chinese EV makers currently exports cars to the West, that is certainly on the business plan.