Expectations that China could become the world’s largest market for electric cars have hit a bit of a stumble as new research show that the country is likely to miss its roll-out targets for 2015 and 2020.
Despite providing some of the generous levels of support in the world for electric cars, the Chinese government’s figures of 500,000 cumulative sales by 2015 and 5m by 2020 may be a long way of the reality. According to a new study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, just 13,000 electric vehicles were sold in the country between 2009 and 2011, including buses and public utility vehicles. Although figures for 2012 are not yet available, they are not expected to be significantly higher.
The Chinese government was expecting electric cars to help the country reduce emissions, increase energy security and help the domestic auto industry to catch up with, or even leapfrog, foreign competition.
But according Bloomberg’s report there are three main factors holding back the Chinese electric car vehicle sector ; firstly a lack of consumer demand due to high costs despite the subsidies, secondly businesses lack certainty in the market. Manufacturers have yet to put their muscle into model launches as they and their fleet customers wait on the government to publish its 2012-20 industrial plan, in order to avoid investing in the wrong technology.
Thirdly and in the long term perhaps more importantly, there is a shortage of the technological expertise in the supply chain needed to produce a competitive, safe, mainstream electric passenger vehicle.
As a result, Bloomberg forecast that EV cumulative sales will amount to around 343,000 by 2015 and just over 1m by 2020-the latter figure equivalent to just 20 per cent of the official target.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: “China is making a big bet on electric vehicles. But it will need to bring in expertise and technology from foreign players to create competitive vehicles, and to deploy the full muscle of its auto industry in order to produce vehicles the public trusts. If it does this, we could well see sales in 2020 creeping closer to the target and China playing a leading international role. But the chances of China going it alone in electric vehicle, and as a result leapfrogging the world’s auto majors, are looking very slim”.
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.
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