Is China really winning the race to electric vehicles?
That question has rippled through the EV world lately. The Chinese government is aggressively pushing hybrids and EVs, offering generous consumer incentives. There’s a sense that China could leapfrog other autoproducing nations.
Now a study by the World Bank and consulting firm PRTM says that China is, in fact, ahead of the pack. But Oliver Hazimeh, head of PRTM’s e-mobility practice, cautions against overreaction.
“They are leading,” Hazimeh says. “But will they run away? We just don’t see that yet because we see similar challenges in China to what we see around the world — and some unique challenges.”
Some of China’s obstacles sound familiar: lack of infrastructure, for instance. But Hazimeh points out that China has its own quirks.
Wealthy Chinese are attracted to traditional prestige brands with big internal combustion engines. For less-affluent Chinese consumers just entering the new-car market, the cost of hybrids and EVs is a barrier. And the Chinese industry is balkanized, with provincial governors striving to create their own automakers and suppliers.
Still, Chinese pro-EV policies are motivated by serious concerns such as energy security and air quality.
One key sign of China’s intent is the “Ten Cities, Ten Thousand Vehicles” program, initiated in 2009. Initially, the goal was to put 1,000 EVs on the road in 10 cities. But, Hazimeh notes, that has changed: “Now it’s up to 25. Every month it seems like they add more cities.”