China has high speed rail, an economy that is moving, and now an electric vehicle (EV) oriented infrastructure thanks to $15 billion in EV investments. That is more than six-times America’s investment, but will it pay off with higher EV sales?
If You Build It, Will They Come?
China has already started buying up American alternative fuel businesses, and thanks to the nations Ten Cities, Thousand Vehicles Program there are 1,000 EVs (generally garbage trucks, buses, and taxis) in ten of China’s major cities. Additionally, China has 75 charging stations that can charge an EV in 10 – 30 minutes; and each Chinese charge station contains 40 – 80 charging spots for individual EVs. At least as far as infrastructure goes, EVs have a huge head start in China.
China almost definitely has more EVs on the streets than America. However, one must factor in that China has a more than four-times the population of the U.S., and that China is really not focusing on private EV ownership as much of their EV efforts are on public service vehicles. That means that America could soon have more private EVs on the road when compared to China. New EV leasing programs hope to introduce the public to this new kind of car. Even so, Chinese automakers still only sold about 8,000 EV’s in 2011. Not impressive for a country of 1.2 billion people.
Big Ambitions For EV Adoption
By comparison the U.S. has invested $2.4 billion in EV development, a far cry from China’s $15 billion. Public charging stations in the U.S. remain few and far between. How can America catch up? Well, it might not be able to. It is no secret that China and America are very different nations. China does not have to worry about political change or a legislative shift when implementing policy. By 2015, China wants to see EV sales at 500,000 units a year. By 2020, they hope to sell 5 million or more electric vehicles per year. That is a far cry from Obama’s overly-ambitious EV plans.
Also, given the poor air quality of many of China’s cities and the need to transport large volumes of people, one would think that clean public transportation is a welcomed advancement from the Chinese population. Yet despite all of China’s successes, EVs and plug-in hybrids remain a very small portion of new car sales. Even generous tax incentives have failed to really spur Chinese EV sales, leading many to wonder if China hasn’t put the cart before the horse.
Time will tell who ends up being on the leading side of EV use. But as it stands now China has one heck of head start.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison