The formula for boosting vehicle electrification is not complicated: Combine hefty purchasing subsidies with a vast recharging network and sales will take off almost immediately. China did this, not only to clean the air in some of the most polluted cities in the world but also to accelerate development of a domestic auto industry that was lagging Western competitors in terms of internal combustion engine technology.
The result? Almost 40 percent of the 3.2 million full-electric vehicles worldwide are in China, where consumers can choose from 92 models. They also can use one of the more than 241,000 charging stations -- more than half of the 424,000 available worldwide, based on data from turnaround specialist AlixPartners.
A mix of state, provincial and city incentives have boosted the so-called new-energy vehicles (NEVs) -- a category that in China encompasses full-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell automobiles. Sales reached 777,000 units last year and could surpass 1 million this year, according to estimates by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The government’s target is 7 million a year by 2025. How do these figures compare with Europe? Last year, sales of full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars totaled a mere 280,767 units, with just 23 battery-powered models available, according to data from JATO Dynamics.
Higher volumes mean that Chinese domestic automakers are already ahead of their European competitors and are offering a wider product spectrum of full-electric models, including hot-selling crossovers of different sizes. In terms of full-electric cars, Europeans can buy only minicars, small and compact cars, plus some derivatives of not-so-hot light commercial vehicles.