Will Beijing Become the EV Capital of the World?

Overcrowding is a huge problem in Beijing, to the point where new car registration comes down to a lottery system…unless you purchase a plug-in or electric vehicle. Is Beijing poised to become the electric car capital of the world?

Bertel Schmitt writing for The Truth About Cars certainly seems to think so, and not without good reason. Beijing has been registering, on average, 2,000 new cars a day, or over 700,000 cars every year for the past few years. Attempts to curb congestion (like the 10 day traffic jam) have led to some interesting edicts, like having to leave your car at home every other day depending on the last digit of your license plate. Cars registered outside of the “5th Ring” of the city are not allowed within the city limits on certain days and curtailing new car registrations via a lottery system. These restrictions have destroyed the car market in the city, with 9 out of 10 people winning the license plate lottery not even bothering to buy a car. It ain’t easy being a car owner in Beijing.

But it could get a whole lot easier if you buy a new electric vehicle. Beijing officials announced last week that plug-in or electric car buyers will not have to enter the lottery to receive registration plates for their cars. Nor will they be restricted from entering the city during rush hour. On top of all that, their car taxes will be paid for by the government, and there are generous tax incentives that could pay upwards of half the cost of a new plug-in or electric car. The problem? Well, the Chinese can’t really buy any electric cars right now because there aren’t many available. BYD is the only Chinese carmaker that you could theoretically buy an EV from…but they’re not commercially available. Whoops?

Other options include the built-close-by Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but it looks like Volkswagen’s Golf Blue e-Motion could become a hit in Beijing as the German automaker maneuvers into being the leading car builder in the world. Dominating the EV market in Beijing could go a long, long way towards that goal. But unless they start cranking them out en masse overnight, Beijing could be in for a new car drought until EV’s really start hitting dealerships.

China wants 5 million electric car or plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015, absolutely dwarfing President Obama’s plan to have just a million such vehicles on America’s roads in the same time frame (and we’ve got a few years headstart.) This could be just the kind of momentum the electric car market needs, as Beijing is home to a virtual cornucopia of different car makers. And if the only cars Beijing residents want to (or are forced to buy, depending on how you look at it) are electric cars, it could be a kick in the ass for domestic and foreign automakers to build EV’s both in China and around the world.

With such draconian rules in effect though, it might not be as impossible as it sounds, though it’d help if there were more such vehicles to buy. And I’m not really keen on this kind of tyrannical government regulation. Can you imagine if New York City tried to pull the same stunt? There’d be riots in the streets that puts The Warriors to shame.

Source: The Truth About Cars

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.