It is really disheartening to consider how many false starts the electric car has had in America. Some of the first vehicles on America’s roads were electric cars, but for one reason or another (but mostly cheap oil) the electric car has never managed to break into the American mainstream. The closest we ever got was with the GM EV-1, the Toyota RAV4 EV and other cars brought about by the short-lived 1990’s California EV mandate, and those cars didn’t exactly have a happy ending.
Now we’ve got a new President and new policies pushing for electric cars, but so does the rest of the world. One of our biggest rivals in the coming years will be China. The Chinese government has just initiated a new policy to help boost domestic production of electric vehicles. So could we be driving Chinese-built electric cars in coming years?
China’s new policy, according to the China Daily, offers government subsidies to electric vehicles built in China. The electric vehicles can be made by either domestic companies (like the BYD e6 pictured above) or joint ventures (like Geely-Volvo). But the policy makes it difficult for imported electric cars to get access to subsidies in its early stages. While zero tailpipe emissions electric cars are the preferred vehicle for subsidies, hybrids, fuel cell and hydrogen vehicles would also be applicable.
It is a pretty nationalistic policy, shutting outside companies out of the subsidies, and I doubt such a policy would fly here in America. While Ford and Tesla were big winners of Department of Energy loans to build electric vehicles, Nissan also got a sizable chunk of the prize. But on the other hand, there isn’t a country that needs electric cars as badly as China does.
Years of epic growth and lack of concern for the environment have created many health hazards in the country… which are now leaking around the world, what with dangerous chemicals in everything from Chinese produced toys to drywall to toothpaste and the drift of largely unregulated coal-fired electricity on the world’s tradewinds. And if you think America’s roads are clogged, imagine what China’s roads will look like when just 50% of the 1/2 billion people also happen to own a car. And maybe it will spur automakers from other countries to get the lead out and deliver a damn good electric car sooner rather than later.