India is keeping a wary eye on their neighbor north of the Himalaya. The Indian press is usually not prone to hyping Chinese achievements. Therefore, this news item should give us reason to sit up and take notice. China will shortly announce a plan to sell a million electric cars annually from 2015 on out. That’s what India’s Economic Times says.
A million electric cars a year?
People’s Daily confirms the report: “Under the country’s latest plan for the auto industry, to be rolled out at the end of 2010, new energy vehicles will be the top priority.”
As the fate of BYD illustrates, the Chinese are not necessarily lining up to buy EVs. Even generous incentives did not change their minds. They want affordable, reliable transportation. To achieve the goal, the Chinese government, and the Chinese auto industry have their work cut out for themselves. But knowing the Chinese, if they put their mind to something …
To get things rolling, 20,000 new energy vehicles, mostly electric buses, will hit Chinese roads by the end of the year.
One million EVs a year sound aggressive. But you need to keep Chinese numbers in mind. This year, they will sell more than 17m units. Even if you use a very conservative growth rate of 10 percent per year (and China gets nervous if growth falls below 10 percent,) the Chinese market will be good for 27m cars by 2015. One million EVs would mean a market penetration of 3.6 percent, in line with what other augurs predict for other markets. Those markets just won’t be as huge as the Chinese.
According to the Economic Times, “by 2020, China is aiming to reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent, and slash fuel consumption to five litres per 100 km.” By then, Chinese planners hope that new energy vehicles will replace 20 percent of traditional cars in China, and electricity will become the main substitute for gasoline.
It won’t be all EVs. Under the soon to be announced plan, “new energy” vehicles encompass EVs and hybrids.
The man behind the plan: China’s Science & Technology Minister Wan Gang. He’s probably the highest level “car guy” any government has. He has a Ph. D. in automotive engineering from Germany’s respected Clausthal University of Technology. In 1991, he went to work for Audi in Ingolstadt and had a big hand in the development of the A4. In 2004, he became President of Shanghai’s Tongji University, a hotbed of Chinese car research, especially in the new energy field.
In 2007, he received a call to report to the central government in Beijing the next day. A reason was not given. Wan Gang, who is not a member of the CCP, embarked on the trip with great apprehension. On arrival in Beijing, he was told that he was appointed Minister of Science and Technology.
I happened to have been at Tongji’s Automotive College in Anting on that day. You could hear a sigh of relief, followed by loud cheers all the way through the sprawling campus.