Sadly, we weren't able to cover the Beijing Motor Show, which opened last week.

It's too bad, too, because China is on track to become the world's largest single car market, its fuel efficiency regulations are far tougher than those of the U.S., and its industrial policy for the auto sector focuses on kick-starting its native electric-vehicle industry.

SAIC Roewe E1 electric minicar concept, Shanghai, April 2010

SAIC Roewe E1 electric minicar concept, Shanghai, April 2010

One example of a Chinese electric vehicle concept shown at Beijing is the SAIC E1 mini-car. Originally unveiled in Shanghai a few days prior, it's a four-seat hatchback with three doors, and is intended as an urban car for the country's increasingly congested central cities.

SAIC, one of China's top 10 automakers, now owns both the MG brand and various design assets and tooling purchased from the wreckage of the bankrupt Rover Cars in Britain.

The E1 is likely to be launched as a Roewe, which said fast in Chinese sounds rather like "Rover". (SAIC did not own the Rover brand, which was licensed by Ford and subsequently sold to Indian firm Tata as part of its acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover. Got that?)

The E1 is said to weigh 2,300 pounds--quite a lot for such a small car--and offer an 85-mile range from its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. SAIC claims the pack can be recharged to 80 percent of capacity in just 30 minutes at a suitable high-voltage charge station.

It's geared for urban traffic, with a 0-to-31-mph time of 5.5 seconds from a 28-kilowatt motor, though getting from 0 to 62 mph will take an agonizing 16 seconds. Top speed is only 75 miles per hour, but then it's not meant for high-speed distance runs.

The E1's electric machinery was developed entirely in-house by SAIC, and it's expected to perform well in Chinese market crash tests.

SAIC says the E1 will go into mass production in 2012, which would make it the first Chinese brand to build an all-electric car. (The four-door compact 2011 Coda Sedan, also built in China, will be targeted to U.S. buyers initially.)

Geely Emgrand GT plug-in hybrid concept, 2010 Beijing Motor Show, from Autoblog Green

Geely Emgrand GT plug-in hybrid concept, 2010 Beijing Motor Show, from Autoblog Green

Beijing was also the venue for GM to introduce a concept vehicle showing a second body style for its eagerly anticipated 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car. The Chevrolet Volt MPV5 concept previewed a five-seat "people mover" using a Voltec powertrain.

If you're in the mood for something slightly more extravagant in concept cars, our favorite from the show was the Geely Emgrand GT plug-in hybrid coupe. Launched by the company that's now buying Swedish carmaker Volvo from Ford, it's ... well, adjectives fail us.

[Auto Express; Autocar; The Tycho]