To help explain the driving force behind a spate of new EV announcements, one need only look towards the world’s largest car market – China.
With passenger car sales somewhere north of 22 million units, the Chinese market is truly gigantic. To put it in perspective, the sum of last year’s growth nearly outstripped the Australian car market in its entirety.
It should surprise no one, then, that the world’s largest market plays a big role in the future plans of most major automakers. Even with mass-market electrification in its infancy (compared to the market as a whole) China is already the world’s largest buyer and producer of electric cars. Buyers in that country are on track to take home over a quarter-million EVs this year, nearly triple the number sold in America.
In September, China issued new legislation requiring the world’s automakers to sell more alternative-energy cars in their country if they wanted to keep on selling traditional vehicles. Like many other countries, officials have stated their desire to completely eliminate internal combustion cars sometime in the future.
Electric cars make a lot of sense in urban areas of China, where the dense roads and crowded cities often make for short driving trips. Those taking longer journeys are well served by the nation’s network of high-speed rail system.
China’s appetite for personal car ownership undoubtedly plays heavily on the mind of OEM execs worldwide, given the clout provided by its status as the world’s largest market. China purchases more GM-branded cars than Americans do, helped in large part by the rampant success of Buick in that country. China has also quickly become Tesla’s second-largest market.
Announcements of new EVs and new EV platforms have been coming fast and furious from GM, Ford, Renault-Nissan, the Volkswagen Group, and others. Seeing the growth and investment, some of the biggest automakers are planning shifting critical research and design work to China.
Meanwhile, collaboration has already begun on existing product. GM worked with its Chinese partner, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, on the bringing the Buick Velite to market. The Velite is a Buick version of the latest-generation Chevy Volt.
Electricity doesn’t appear out of thin air, of course, and the juice to charge up all these electric cars has to be produced somehow. Right now, a great deal of Chinese electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. Taking that into consideration, then, the pollution is simply being moved from the city streets to the generating facility.
Nevertheless, top officials in the Chinese government have been making positive noises about new energy vehicles, receiving support from various legislative levels. Given the favorable political climate, and the seemingly insatiable consumer thirst for new cars in China, we shouldn’t be surprised to see even more EV plans being rolled out by the world’s automakers.
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