By on April 7, 2011

If you are a respectable auto manufacturer, better don’t show up at the Shanghai Auto Show (open to the public on April 21) without an EV or at least a hybrid. Not that there is a huge demand. Despite lavish subsidies (in Beijing, I could collect $9,000 from the government for driving an EV, an amount the city will supposedly double – a moot point if I don’t get lucky in the license plate lottery), where was I, despite lavish subsidies, the take rate in China remains minuscule.

Wharton says that ”EV sales today account for only 0.06% of all vehicle sales in China.” Hybrids? Google leaves us in the dark. This does not discourage consultants from McKinsey on down from promising that China will be a bonanza for new energy vehicles. On top of that, the government wants it. One of the many companies to show up with a green car in Shanghai is BMW.

According to a BMW press release, “BMW Brilliance Automotive presents the concept of a premium-segment plug-in hybrid sedan. The prototype is based on the long wheelbase version of the BMW 5 Series Sedan, developed exclusively for the Chinese automobile market and produced at the Shenyang site.” Fully charged, the car is good for 75 km (46.5 miles). Powered by a 214 BMW TwinPower Turbo engine, the car is good for another range-anxiety free 400km (248 miles) before needing either a wall socket or a gas station. Plug-in hybrid drive, power electronics and high-volt battery “were developed in close collaboration between the joint venture partners BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd,” says the release. So far, so good. A few questions remain.

Concept or prototype? The first is usually a dream that rarely sees the end of a production line. The latter would be closer to reality. “The car will be built,” says Frank Strebe, BMW spokesman in Munich. “It will go on sale in 2013.”

And what logo will be on the front of the car? “That’s a good question,” says Strebe .

The (photoshopped) picture of the car wisely shows it from the side. We’ll see what will adorn the car in Shanghai. Which does not answer the question whether it will be a plug-in hybrid Fünfer, or a plug-in hybrid Brilliance, when it goes on sale in two years.

BMW as it may, I call upon all ecologically responsible automakers to join me in my campaign to lobby the Beijing city government to drop its subsidy for new energy cars. Well, this is China, so cut it in half. Instead, guarantee every buyer of a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and especially an EV – a license plate!  Before you know it, car dealerships will be re-energized, and Beijing will be the green capital of the world. Think about it.

And Beijing: You know where I live.

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