2014 Tesla Model S in China
Many U.S. car buyers still aren't aware that the Chinese market surpassed North America in volume and importance fully a decade ago.
Similarly, in advanced automotive technology, a case can be made that China is more important than the U.S.
Nowhere is that more evident than in plug-in electric cars.
Through a combination of carrots (financial incentives, quicker registration, and other preferential treatment) and sticks (government mandates for sales and technology development), China is on track to be the world's largest market for electric cars.
This is due to longstanding government goals of dominating global production of lithium-ion battery cells, photovoltaic solar panels, and plug-in vehicles.
Already, more battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are sold in China than in the U.S.—and for the second year running, last year Chinese maker BYD sold more vehicles with plugs than any other maker in the world (Tesla included).
China is more important to the future of electric cars than the U.S.— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) April 24, 2017
We surveyed our Twitter followers to find out how convinced they were of China's importance in this crucial area.
We asked, specifically, how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement that China was simply more important than the U.S. to the future of electric vehicles.
The outcome was decisive, and not all of our polls produce such strong results.
More than four out of five respondents either "strongly" agreed or "somewhat" agreed with the idea that China was more important than the U.S.
BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China
The figures were split, with 42 percent "strongly" and 40 percent "somewhat" agreeing.
Support for the U.S. was low, with 18 percent "somewhat" disagreeing that China was more important—and not one single participant "strongly" disagreeing that China outweighed the U.S.
China's drive to put more electric cars on the roads of its epically polluted cities has not been without its hurdles.
And of course the challenge to centralized, top-down direction of technology and markets is that decisions can change: China has some history of that.
If the country stays the course, however, it appears to be in line to matter far more than the U.S. to consumer adoption of vehicles that plug in—even if that demand is not "naturally" market-driven.