China’s Tesla Alternatives that won’t cost you an arm or leg


China is currently the world capital for electric car manufacturing. Currently, there are more sold there than the rest of the world combined. The charge is mostly lead by locally designed and made vehicles sold mega cheap due to the massive government subsidies. The subsidies are said to be a part of Beijing’s policy to build a world-beating leadership in clean driving, but is also probably due to the fact that China imports most of its petrochemical products and is finding these hard to come by in global markets.

Whatever the reason for the push to attain global leadership in EV’s, the locally branded models are significantly cheaper but also have significantly shorter range than those offered by the likes of Tesla, Nissan and Chevrolet, to name just three of the international brands trying to compete in the Chinese EV market.

Figures just out show that the billions of dollars that have been spent on subsidies have really resulted in added traction, within not just the urban population but also with taxi drivers. Sales of EV’s and plug-in hybrids soared 60% in the past twelve months to 402,000 vehicles and the government is hungry for more, with a target of 5 million EV’s on the road by 2020.

The domestically produced EV’s are not going to wow you with their technology and style though; they sell on price and that is it. To give you one example of why China is leading the way in China, the Chery eQ would set you back about US$8,655 after subsidies offer a saving of over US$6,000, whereas in the US of A, the most competitive model (the Chevrolet Bolt) costs around US$30,000 after subsidies.

The subsidies, though, are only for made-in-China cars made for China, so international brands can only win over if they are made there. Brands like Nissan's Leaf, though, which is made locally by Dongfeng under the Venucia brand, have not fair very well, largely due to the cost being well over the US$8,000 mark, the psychological barrier for EV cars in China.

The field should become progressively more even for foreign brands as we approach the year 2020, as subsidies are due to be removed in stages as the industry matures and economies of scale kick in. To date though, EV’s in China are seen primarily as an urban commute and a way to get around the stringent laws on car registration in a country where at least a dozen cities restrict registrations for petrol-powered cars.

Not to be deterred, Buick will be launching its very own EV for the China market, albeit manufactured by the Shanghai-GM JV. The new vehicle is a variant on the Chevrolet Bolt with revised styling and is really an EREV, otherwise known as a plug-in hybrid to the rest of us. Of course the original Bolt was sold in China for a number of years but basically failed due to the high cost. Buick will sell the car under the Velite 5 brand name, and although prices have not been announced yet, apparently the price will be competitive.


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