China wants all electric cars: will it work? Reasons and reactions – Green Car Reports

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017
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BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China

BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China

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It was quaint and adorable when Norway did it, saying it would end sales of cars with internal-combustion engines by 2025.

The Netherlands followed suit, with little fanfare. More recently, France and the U.K. have enacted various forms of bans on non-electrified vehicles, on varying schedules.

Now that China has said it’s considering timetables for doing the same, the world’s auto industry is paying attention. Very, very close attention.

DON’T MISS: China developing timetable to end sales, production of gasoline cars

A week ago Sunday, Chinese government media said the country’s regulators were already assessing timetables for ending sales of vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines.

“Those measures will certainly bring profound changes for our car industry’s development,” said Chinese deputy industry minister, Xin Guobin, suggesting that “turbulent” times lay ahead for the global auto industry.

Indeed. With bells on.

2016 BYD Tang plug-in hybrid SUV, made in China

2016 BYD Tang plug-in hybrid SUV, made in China

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BYD Qin EV300

BYD Qin EV300

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BYD Qin EV300

BYD Qin EV300

Enlarge Photo

2016 BYD Tang plug-in hybrid SUV, made in China

2016 BYD Tang plug-in hybrid SUV, made in China

Enlarge Photo

The reasons are simple: global industrial dominance, the sticky political problem of severe urban air pollution, and a lack of intellectual property in plug-in hybrid vehicle technology.

China’s elite and its political leaders accept the science of climate change; there is no domestic debate over whether it’s real. (To be fair, little overt domestic debate on many issues exists within authoritarian China.)

Most important is the long-held goal of the Chinese government-industrial complex to dominate crucial 21st-century industries and ensure that its companies have the largest shares of global production of photovoltaic solar cells, current and future battery cells, and electric cars.

CHECK OUT: GM CEO Barra attacks China gas-car ban, suggests buyers should decide

Second, China’s major cities all suffer from extreme air pollution, due to emissions from everything from inefficient and outmoded industrial plants to an explosion of privately held vehicles.

The severe smog has become a political issue, and both national and local governments are making visible efforts to clamp down on egregious or highly visible polluters.

Third, while some automakers—General Motors most recently, in comments by CEO Mary Barra—suggest that plug-in hybrids may be a more practical transitional technology, Chinese automakers have little intellectual property in that area.

Buick Velite 5 to be sold in China (Chevrolet Volt in North America)

Buick Velite 5 to be sold in China (Chevrolet Volt in North America)

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It’s also worth noting that China has no domestic oil production or reserves, so every gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel that’s burned represents hard currency spent in the Mideast on oil imports.

So ample reasons exist for national and local regulators to align behind carrots and sticks to move the country rapidly toward battery-electric vehicles.

That matters because China has been the world’s largest auto market for a decade now, and its annual sales of 28 million vehicle last year dwarfed those of the U.S. at 17.5 million.

That annual total is expected to grow in coming years, and it’s noteworthy that GM now sells more cars in China than it does in its home market of North America. So does VW Group against its European sales.

Will it work?

Venucia E30 (Chinese version of Nissan Leaf electric car), Guangzhou Auto Show [photo: ChinaAutoWeb]

Venucia E30 (Chinese version of Nissan Leaf electric car), Guangzhou Auto Show [photo: ChinaAutoWeb]

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Old China hand Michael Dunne, of consultants Dunne Automotive Ltd., wrote that Chinese consumers aren’t particularly interested in electric cars.

But, he suggested, that doesn’t really matter:

China’s central planners won’t let electrics fail. I came away from meetings with officials over the summer more convinced than ever that China is committed to finding a way to ignite real, sustained demand for electric vehicles. Whatever it takes.

That’s because electrics offer three huge benefits:  Independence from Mideast Oil, cleaner city skies and an opportunity for global technology leadership.

Dunne said much the same in a quote in The Los Angeles Times, writing that whatever regulations emerge from the opaque planning process, they will be “designed to give China a decisive upper hand in the market for electric vehicles.”

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