When I moved to Suzhou, China I was surprised to see the number of cars on the city’s roadways and the number of electric motorcycles. The electric powered motorcycles are manufactured in China and the price of purchasing them is being subsidized by the Chinese Government. The electric bikes are relatively inexpensive and they range anywhere from two thousand RMB ($321.54 USD) to four thousand RMB ($643.00 USD). People can simply remove the battery from the bike and plug it into a wall socket in order to recharge the battery.
The capitol city of Beijing in China is facing a serious health crisis due to the amount of smog in the air. The smog is being caused by a growing number of industries doing business in Beijing and the growing number of cars on the city roadways. Many people in Beijing ware a surgical mask to prevent breathing in the air pollutants.
China, however, is trying to combat the growing problem.
In April of 2013 I visited the Shanghai motor show in Shanghai, China and I was impressed by the number of electric cars on display there. One car in particular that caught my eye was the SP:01. The car was manufactured in the U.S. and is being displayed as the fastest electric care ever built. The car has a top speed of 155mph and manages 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds. The car was built by Detroit Electric and the company claims to have produced the first electric car in Detroit back in 1907.
Detroit Electric chose to reveal its state of the art machine in Shanghai for a very good reason. China is pushing and investing broadly in electric cars with the hope of becoming the world’s leading electric car manufacturer. With the rising air pollution in China and the potential health issues it may cause. The Chinese Government is looking to electric cars as a way of reducing the air pollution.
China’s goal is to put over 5 million electric cars on its roads by 2020 that will cut auto emissions down significantly. They are also investing in technology to curb the industrial pollution that is plaguing China.
Electric car manufacturers from all sectors of the globe are scrambling to get in on China’s clean energy initiative.
Sixteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are said to be in China. It is an embarrassment for the Chinese government and for those living in those cities. The electric car industries see China as a ripe market for auto companies to thrive.
This year, the air in the Chinese capital reached 40 times the safety limit. The sheer number of cars and the poor quality of fossil fuels are significantly contributing to China’s growing concern for its future health and air safety.
The Shanghai motor show also unveiled an electric Porsche, a VW, and a Renault. Many other manufacturers are also choosing China to unveil their latest electric or hybrid models.
The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid has a dual-electric gas engine; the first Porsche of its kind. Another company formally known as Rover showed off its electric auto for the Chinese market. This particular electric auto maker is now owned by China’s auto giant SAIC.
Cars produced by GM and Ford have always been a status symbol for the Chinese and the American auto makers have been making record sales in China.
Electric auto makers however are trying to take advantage of China’s growing wealth and to continue to feed on China’s auto frenzy.
Globally, the electric car revolution has been a dismal failure due to unattractive car models and the high cost of owning one. China, however, is pledging its support to produce electric cars for the mass market.
The Beijing Electric Car Company is a part-state owned car manufacturer. Their site is vast; a massive factory surrounded by car parks full of new cars, all electric. The E150-EV is the first mass-produced Chinese-made electric car. None of the cars have yet been sold though due mostly to their price range. The Chinese Government is in the process of subsidizing the cost of the vehicles for the average buyer.
The Beijing Government has been supporting the electric car industry by encouraging growth in research and development.
There are approximately 1000 electric cars on the roads in Beijing not an encouraging number though.
Growth of the electric car industry in China can only come about through Government incentives and monetary subsidies. That will most likely push the price of the electric cars down to an affordable price range for the Chinese auto buyers. The more electric cars that are sold in China will eventually result in lower prices as well.
In the near future China may very well be the leading producer of electric cars. The impact that will have on the American auto makers is uncertain.
It will certainly become more difficult for the American auto industries to compete in China against a state subsidized auto manufacturer. The production of electric cars however is a step in the right direction for the environment as a whole not just in China but globally.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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