NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

China Not Embracing Electric Cars

May 9, 2013

Fears that China will catapult past the United States in the race to put electric vehicles on the road have fizzled. Despite choking pollution in big Chinese cities, the government faces the same obstacles as the United States in the push for electric vehicles: They're still expensive, many consumers don't understand them and many drivers don't have anywhere to charge the batteries, says USA Today.

  • Although China has offered tax incentives on electric vehicles in an effort to reduce the massive air pollution problem, there are few of the vehicles on the roads.
  • Experts once said that Chinese consumers would embrace electric vehicles because four out of five car buyers are purchasing a vehicle for the first time.
  • They've never had an experience with internal combustion engine cars, so they won't know what they're missing, the thinking goes.

That thinking was wrong.

  • In 2012, the Chinese bought 12,791 hybrid and electric vehicles, according to the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
  • But the real number of electric vehicles sold in China last year was actually about 3,000, when factoring out hybrids and vehicles that aren't roadworthy, such as golf carts.
  • The Chinese government set a goal of getting 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2015, with the central and provincial governments offering incentives and investing in infrastructure.
  • In the United States in 2012, automakers sold 53,172 plug-in electric vehicles and 434,498 hybrids, representing a total market share of 3.4 percent.

In both countries, electric vehicles are more expensive than traditional vehicles. For example, the Volt, the most popular plug-in electric vehicle in the United States last year, starts at $40,000. Price is a big obstacle for many U.S. buyers. The same holds true for China, and people who can afford expensive cars in China prefer luxury gasoline-powered vehicles like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Buick.

Source: Nathan Bomey, "China Not Embracing Electric Cars," USA Today, May 5, 2013.


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