China’s state planners want the country’s auto industry to go all electric as soon as possible. If their current thinking works out, about half of all passenger cars will be powered by batteries or other non-fossil-fuel technologies within 15 years.Megan Zhang Published November 9, 2020Share this article

Image source: Nio.

China’s domestic vehicle industry is racing toward a future dominated by battery-powered cars, based on a technology blueprint (in Chinese) from the Society of Automotive Engineers of China and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

  • The road map predicts that new-energy vehicles (NEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) will each make up approximately half of all new automobiles sold in China, the largest automobile market in the world, by 2035.

Electric vehicle sales lost momentum in China during the first few months of the pandemic, and plunging oil prices also eliminated some of the incentive for on-the-fence buyers to opt for electric. But as the country’s economy begins to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, China is now seeing a rebound in sales of NEVs and HEVs.

  • Chinese car company BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett, sold 19,800 units of NEVs in September — a 45% year-over-year increase, and a multifold swell from just 2,800 units sold in February. Last month, BYD sold 23,217 NEVs, representing 85% year-over-year growth.
  • Nio, one of China’s largest homegrown electric vehicle startups, was recently valued at $56 billion, surpassing the $53 billion market value of General Motors. The company, founded in 2018, and now listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a lineup of only three electric vehicle models and has so far delivered a total of just over 63,000 vehicles.

Chinese policymakers have spent years pushing to advance the production and sale of electric vehicles through subsidies and incentives, in hopes of positioning the country as a global automotive leader.

  • The country is also funneling funds and resources into research and development of domestically produced batteries — technology that could assist electric vehicle companies in entering the European and American markets and gaining an edge over competitors.
  • China-based battery behemoth Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL), which already produces batteries for Tesla’s Gigafactory near Shanghai, recently developed a battery that can power an electric vehicle for more than 1 million miles and last for 16 years. Such an advancement could be a game-changer for the electric vehicle industry, doing away with current concerns among prospective car buyers regarding the lifespan of batteries.