BMW: China Will Be Largest EV Market by 2020

BMW i3

The automobile has hit China like a tsunami. Where once there were  few private cars, now there are tens of millions. This spurt in growth was fueled by the country’s leaders, who wanted to drive the economy forward as fast as possible so China could catch up with the rest of the world. Consumers in China, though, are crazy about any car with an internal combustion engine but have been slow to accept the idea of electric cars. Currently there are only a smattering of EV’s purring along Chinese roadways – roughly 70,000. BMW thinks that’s about to change.

Why? For one thing, China is experiencing crippling smog conditions in most of its major cities. This has led authorities to mandate removing up to 6 million pollution spweing older cars from its roads as soon as possible. In an effort to tamp down the demand for cars, new registrations are strictly limited and are meted out by lottery. If you are lucky enough to be given permission for a new car registration for a non-hybrid car, the fee can be as much as $15,000.

Unless you are registering an electric vehicle. Then the registration is immediately available and costs nothing. So, let’s see: buy a Buick and wait years for a costly registration or buy an EV and start driving tomorrow for free? Hmmm … that’s a pretty easy choice to make. The government wants half a million EV’s on the road by the end of this year. One thing we know for sure is that when the Chinese government wants something, it usually gets it.

BMW Charging Station

BMW thinks such government policies will tilt the car market in China towards electric cars, and it wants to be positioned to take advantage of the surge when it comes. To pave the way forward, the Bavarian company is installing 46 public charging stations in and around Beijing . It has imported about a 1000 i3 models, which are selling in BMW showrooms next to its upmarket i8 offerings.  Mercedes and Volkswagen are also making plans to shoulder their way into the Chinese EV market, as is Tesla (who is looking into Chinese production).

While the policies of China’s central government may seem heavy handed, remember that at the beginning of the automotive era, governments in Europe decided to tax those new fangled devices on the basis of horsepower or engine displacement, which led to  smaller, less powerful cars getting built. BMW is betting Chinese policy will provide a strong boost to EV sales. That seems to be a bet worth taking.


Source: The Truth About Cars

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.