Carmakers look to an electric future in China

Apr 21, 2011 by D'Arcy Doran
An electric car of Chinese car manufacturer FAW Car is displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai. Major carmakers' high hopes for electric vehicles are on clear display at the Shanghai auto show, but industry leaders say it could be a decade before such eco-friendly cars go mainstream.

Major carmakers' high hopes for electric vehicles are on clear display at the Shanghai auto show, but industry leaders say it could be a decade before such eco-friendly cars go mainstream.

Wary over its growing dependence on foreign oil, China plans to become a world leader in clean-energy vehicles, pledging to invest more than $14 billion by 2020 -- and have five million of them on the road by then.

Beijing's determination has executives predicting China, the world's largest auto market, will be one of the first to see widespread adoption of .

"Two-hundred million ride electric motor scooters (in China) now. They know the limitations of batteries and about recharging so they don't run out of power," General Motors China President Kevin Wale told AFP.

"As soon as someone provides them with the right vehicle at the right price, they'll start to move towards them. The government's going to support that transition as well," Wale said.

General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen, and Chinese firms such as BYD, Geely and Chery, are among those displaying hybrid and electric cars at the Shanghai show, alongside more traditional models, as they jostle to woo Chinese buyers.

An electric car prototype of Chinese car manufacturer Geely is displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai. Wary over its growing dependence on foreign oil, China plans to become a world leader in clean-energy vehicles, pledging to invest more than $14 billion by 2020 -- and have five million of them on the road by then.

The scale of China's market -- a record 18 million vehicles were sold last year -- provides Chinese auto manufacturers with a huge laboratory to help find the right electric-car formula, Wale said.

"They won't wait until research and development gives the perfect solution. They'll move much more quickly in terms of putting options in front of people and learning from that and putting the next one out," Wale said.

GM signed an agreement this week with an eco-city development in the northern port city of Tianjin to provide electric vehicles that will operate on a GPS network designed to eliminate .

China's drive for electric cars is motivated by its fear of being addicted to foreign oil, said auto market analyst Michael Dunne of Hong Kong-based Dunne and Co.

"Let's be clear: This effort to go electric is 90 percent about energy security and less than 10 percent about the environment," Dunne said, adding China will generate most of the electricity to run the cars by burning polluting coal.

An electric car of Chinese car manufacturer Dongfeng motor group is displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai. Global automakers expect China to set the pace in developing a market for electric cars.

Either way, global automakers expect to set the pace in developing a market for electric cars.

"The new energy vehicle opportunity here is probably bigger than in other countries," BMW management board member Ian Robertson said.

But the transition will not happen overnight. Ford forecasts that by 2020 perhaps 10 to 25 percent of global auto sales will be hybrid and electric cars.

"The batteries need to get smaller. They need to be capable of holding more storage and they need to be able to extend the range. But importantly, they also need to get less costly," Ford Asia Pacific President Joe Hinrichs said.

Battery development "has not kept up with the hype" surrounding new energy vehicles, he said, adding government involvement was necessary to keep innovation moving.

"It's so important to the global economy. It's not about any one country or any one industry," Ford's Hinrichs said. "It's going to take the better part of this decade to get the development cycles going better."

The Active-E, an electric car made by German car manufacturer BMW, is displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai.

For their part, Chinese automakers are powering ahead to avoid falling behind Western competitors with these new technologies, the way they did in developing conventional internal combustion engines.

"We cannot wait until these technologies are fully mature, otherwise we will always be late," said Chen Hong, president of SAIC Motor, the leading Chinese manufacturer by sales.

SAIC plans to start mass production of a small electric car, the Roewe E1, and a hybrid car, the Roewe 550, in the second half of 2011.

Shenzhen-based BYD, which began as a manufacturer of nickel and lithium-ion batteries, is currently testing a 12-metre-long (40-foot) all-electric bus called the K9 in Denmark, BYD spokesman Paul Lin said.

Talks are under way for similar tests in Britain, the Netherlands, Singapore and Hong Kong, Lin added.

Explore further: Japan gov't calls on citizens to stockpile toilet paper

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taiwan, China may develop electric cars together

Nov 16, 2009

Taiwan and China are looking into developing electric cars together and will hold a conference here next week to seek areas where they can cooperate, a Taipei official said Monday.

Automakers go 'green' in Beijing

Apr 28, 2010

Dozens of carmakers are showing off "green" vehicles at the Beijing Auto Show as they position themselves for a hoped-for alternative-energy boom in the world's biggest auto market.

GM breaks ground on China hi-tech car lab

Jul 19, 2010

US auto giant General Motors broke ground in Shanghai on Monday on a research facility that will develop electric cars, lightweight materials and alternative fuel technology for China and the world.

China's electric car tactics rattle automakers

Apr 20, 2011

The toylike electric cars at the Shanghai Auto Show are a glimpse of the high-tech automotive future China's leaders are pursuing - and a harbinger of possible disputes with its trading partners.

SKorea targets world electric car market

Oct 08, 2009

President Lee Myung-Bak Thursday offered full government support to help South Korean firms secure about 10 percent of the global electric car market by 2015.

Recommended for you

Seoul to provide smartphone-charging down by the stream

18 hours ago

Seoul's mobile users will be able to make use of outdoor charging stations at a popular downtown stream, powered by mini-hydroelectric turbines that use the stream's current. The city is building the recharging ...

Tesla, Chinese firm plan 400 charging stations

20 hours ago

Tesla Motors Co. and a state-owned Chinese phone carrier announced plans Friday to build 400 charging stations for electric cars in a new bid to promote popular adoption of the technology in China.

Cool roofs in China can save energy and reduce emissions

Aug 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —Working with Chinese researchers, the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has conducted the first comprehensive study of cool roofs in China and concluded ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bfast
Apr 21, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
beelize54
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
I hope, we'll skip the epoch of nuclear fission and we'll jump directly into cars powered with hydrogen-nickel fusion. This process would eliminate all battery and hydrogen based "green" nonsenses, too.
TheZone
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
Every time I read something about electric cars and the efficiency, ease of use, decent pickup rates from freeway on-ramps, maintaining highway speeds...the satisfaction of customers... the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?".... comes to mind, [specifically the General Motors EV1 of the mid 1990s] ref: http://en.wikiped...c_Car%3F
It sickens me to think how GM had in the palm of their hand everything...... everything..... Let's keep going with the EV vehicles.... TZ
Norezar
not rated yet Apr 22, 2011
I wouldn't trust Chinese manufacturers with an unproven product, especially a purchase this large. Hell if they can screw up dog food for crying out loud how is buying a "new" technology car a good idea?