China's annual sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will approach 1 million annually by 2020 - enough to make it the world's largest EV market, a U.S. research firm concludes.
Automakers will sell 510,000 plug-in vehicles and 430,000 "pure" electric cars each year by 2020, predicts IHS Automotive, which is based in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Ten years from now, the Chinese government is targeting a total fleet of 5 million electric vehicles and plug-ins on the road. The government also is pushing to achieve an overall fleet fuel economy of 4.5 liters per 100 kilometers, or 52 miles per gallon.
But Tianshu Xin, the firm's research director for greater China, says it's too early to predict which automakers are positioned to dominate the market.
"It's really difficult to say who's in the lead," said Xin at a briefing in suburban Detroit last week. "A number of automakers are pushing aggressively."
Earlier this year, China's central government announced plans to invest 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) in EV development over the next decade. While China has yet to solve a number of practical issues, the government's support is a major plus.
"If they want to build a network of charging stations, that can happen very quickly," Xin said. "That's the difference between, say, China and India. In China, you can try something quickly."
Separately, IHS Automotive projects overall sales of passenger cars in China will rise 9.7 percent to 14.5 million units next year.