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Despite Pollution, China Still Isn't Committed To Electric Cars

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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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The images have made for grim viewing even if you don't live within the frame: Pictures and details emerging from China earlier this year showed smog on levels not previously recorded.

Streets were choked and people were strongly advised to stay indoors, and avoid any sort of activity that might see you breathing in greater quantities of the dirty air.

And yet, despite scenes such as these, that greenest of transport options, the electric car, is faring particularly poorly in China.

According to China Daily, the country's Association of Automobile Manufacturers said only 3,000 electric vehicles were sold there in the first three quarters of 2012. That's little more in total than Chevrolet sold Volt plugins in some individual months in 2012, in the U.S.

So why, in a country whose cities are choked by smog, is the electric car doing so poorly in China?

Familiar issues

To an extent, Chinese consumers are rejecting electric cars on the same grounds that their counterparts all over the world are skeptical about them.

Price is the number one concern. Despite China's increasing economy, the average electric car is still significantly more expensive than its regular gasoline counterpart, and consumers looking for a quick return, within the typical ownership period, aren't seeing the benefits.

That's despite some huge discounts and perks, in some areas of China. In Beijing, the city has started offering free license plates and a massive $19,000 rebate on electric cars in an effort to encourage sales. As a fairly recent move it isn't clear how significantly this has impacted sales, but such a deal in any other country would have electric cars flying off the forecourts.

Part of the price issue is down to China's high import taxes, making imported products like batteries expensive, even when used in domestic electric vehicles.

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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Will Chinese firm Wanxiang Group's recent purchase of American battery firm A123 Systems see this change? We'll have to wait and see.

The next reason for China's slow electric car sales is also familiar--lifestyle changes. Existing electric car owners are finding that they might not be making as many compromizes as they initially suspected (and indeed, have the joy of never stopping at a gas station on the way to anywhere) but it takes a leap of faith for most drivers to realize this.

Tim Dunne, director of Asia-Pacific market intelligence at consumer-research firm JD Power and Associates, explains the thought process of many potential buyers.

"It sounds great, recharging half the battery while having lunch... but at the same time, I can drive my car to my local filling station and in five minutes I can put in enough fuel to run it for a week. If you only have five minutes before you've got to pick up your son or daughter from baseball or ballet, then you've got a challenge."


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Comments (9)
  1. Considering the large amount of coal China burns, electric cars
    are a total non-solution. Apparently no one has bothered to check on what the Chinese are doing. And it's a whole lot more and a lot more effective (especially cost-effective) than California's ill-conceived "renewable" strategy. China has more nuclear plants under construction than the rest of the world combined and will have 600 by mid-century and 1600 by the turn of the century. And they can build them at less cost than an
    equivalent pumped storage facility California is building that
    can hold a mere 10 hours of power,required by solar/wind. I calculated the land required for a solar farm big enough to equal one reactor: 80,000 acres. Desertification is the bigger
    problem
     
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  2. Gosh, that sounds scary, 600 nuclear power stations in China by mid-century and 1600 by the turn of the century? What will they do with all that radioactive waste ?? Don't know whether our seas and landfills can take any more of this man-made toxic waste. Bring on the solar farms to produce electricity for electric vehicles ! Clean energy = health.
     
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  3. "What will they do with all that radioactive waste ??"

    Two options: 1. Use a method that they, the US, Canada, and a few others know to render radioactive material inert. 2. Sell it for weapons use. [depleted uranium]

    Peace
     
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  4. I rear the Chinese reluctance is a bit more mundane than all of that.
    They are HUGE in electric bicycles and electric scooters. But electric cars are really not making it.

    It is not the electricity. Not the range. And not the price of the cars.

    It's the garage. Very few Chinese live in a house with a garage. Miles and miles of high rises with apartments.

    You can take an electric bicycle or scooter in the elevator with you and up to your apartment. You can charge there and it won't be stolen.

    What do you do with an electric car?

    Jack Rickard
    http://www.EVtv.me
     
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  5. EV sales maybe abysmal in China so far but I think Tesla might yet be surprisingly successfully. Its product isn't just about quick economic payback, it's a fantastic automotive toy in a country with an exponentially increasing number of rich people who love their automotive toys. Also the high-tech stuff like the large touchscreen is exactly the sort of trinkets that sells cars a country like China.

    A lot depends on the sort of import taxes Tesla faces and to what extend they are offset by incentives of course but apart from I think China could easily and quickly develop in a more important market for Tesla than the USA.
     
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  6. CHINA MASSES COULD SUCCESSFULLY ADOPT THE FULL USE OF ELECTRIC CARS/VEHICLES PROVIDED THE COST OF SUCH VEHICLES IS AT PAR WITH INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE (ICE) VEHICLES AND TO ACHIEVE THIS IS TO PRODUCE HUGE VOLUMES OF ELECTRIC CARS TO BRING DOWN THEIR COSTS, THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED WHEN THEY ADOPT LOST TECHNOLOGIES LIKE THE HENDERSHOT GENERATOR/NIKOLA TESLA'S POWER BOX RECEPTOR TO GENERATE AND RECEIVE ELECTRICITY FROM THE COSMIC ENERGY AROUND US FOR RUNNING THE EV/REEV INSTEAD OK?

    IF EV MANUFACTURER IN CHINA COULD BRING DOWN THE COST OF EV BY ADOPTING LOST TECHNOLOGIES:-
    SAY
    HENDERSHOT GENERATOR FOR EV/REEV

    http://www.keelynet.com/energy/teslafe1.htm
    http://www.keelynet.com/energy/teslcar.htm
    http://www.keelynet.com/energy/teslcar.htm
     
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  7. “And yet, despite scenes such as these, that greenest of transport options, the electric car, is faring particularly poorly in China.”

    The “greenest of transport options” would be the one that cleans the air as it goes; emissions would be at a negative balance.

    “Perhaps Tesla knows something the rest of us don't--but we suspect China's growing demand for luxury products may have something to do with it.”

    Really? According to “we”, “Added to that, wealthy Chinese buyers show virtually no interest in pricey, high-tech plug-in cars, preferring powerful and luxurious sedans from prestigious German makes.” ...bit of a conflict, eh?

    Peace
     
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  8. Depends on the context. You've taken both quotes *out* of context, so naturally they're more likely to conflict.

    Currently electric cars have been pricey and high tech, but not particularly prestigious (or, dare I say it, appealing). Tesla could potentially change that, so it's not even slightly outside the realms of probability that its own electric cars could sell in such a market.
     
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  9. You are reaching on that one. Both statements are in context -- slow adoption of electric cars by the Chinese.

    The quote from the former article remarks "prestigious German makes", which Tesla Motors is neither, prestigious or German. Whether Tesla Motors becomes prestigious in the eyes of the Chinese remains to be seen. As for now, the comment by Jack Rickard is a better analysis of the situation this article attempted to address.

    Peace
     
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