We recently reported on the impressive adoption of electric buses in China, which have taken off as China ramps up its mass transit system across the country, and we are seeing similar reports for the personal electric car sector. While an increase in overall personal car sales makes sense with the growing middle class in China, I would not have expected to see the type of growth that is actually happening in electric cars relative to ICE cars. Thankfully, China does not listen to me (though, if it did, I would have a few things to say about the use of coal) and the growth of electric cars in the massive country is taking off, as detailed in an article over at Renewable Energy World.
Recent reports indicate China is responsible for 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll just summarize by saying:
China has some of the worst pollution on the planet and just last week issued the first air quality “red alert,” indicating levels 10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendations. During such an alert, residents are urged to stay inside, businesses are shut down, traffic restrictions are put in place, schools are closed, and construction is halted. Essentially, the entire society is put on hold with just the basic elements left running.
The Electrified Path Forward
With air quality being at such historically poor levels, the government having a high focus on electrifying the transportation fleet makes a lot of sense and, fortunately, it appears that is what is happening in China. Buffeted by large government incentives, 32,800 “alternate fuel” cars were produced in September, which represents a 210% increase vs 2014. Sales are following that impressive trend, increasing 220% vs last year with 28,100 cars sold.
The article drills into the numbers with the exact sales splits between BEVs and PHEVs:
“Sales of the vehicles stood at 28,100 units, soaring 220 percent. Production and sales of pure electrics were 20,400 and 19,200 units respectively, up 270 percent and 290 percent. Production and sales of plug-in hybrids were 7,959 and 8,864 units respectively, up 110 percent and 130 percent.
“Looking at a longer period, for the first nine months of 2015, new energy vehicle production amounted to 144,200 units, a jump of 200 percent compared to the corresponding period of last year. Sales of the vehicles reached 136,700 units, surging 230 percent. Production and sales of pure electrics were 93,000 and 87,500 units respectively, up 200 percent and 270 percent. Production and sales of plug-in hybrids were 51,300 and 49,200 units respectively, up 190 percent and 180 percent.”
These are extremely impressive and exciting numbers for a country that is experiencing rapid growth in the personal car market while at the same time battling concerning rates of emissions from coal-fired power generation. China has developed and is working against an aggressive target of 5 million fully electric and plug-in hybrid electric car sales by 2020 in an attempt to curb emissions.
The China Association of Automobile Manufactures shared that annual electric car sales figures in China are estimated to top 220,000 in 2015, surpassing the US as the top electric car country by sales volume, notes a recent Forbes article. This is largely due to the heavy government subsidies for electric cars, which can be as high as $16,000 (USD) with local governments typically matching federal subsidies.
Booming Battery Business
In parallel to the electric car sales explosion, the battery business in China is booming, with the overall market expected to increase 4 times over by 2017, with most major producers increasing production capacity in support of the burgeoning EV market. Quality and chemistry improvements are key focal points moving forward, as the current expected battery life is a terrible 3–8 years.
The State Council is leaning into the problem, providing guidance to manufacturers to include recycling of spent cells as well as working with central recycling providers to establish best practices for battery recycling. If not managed and improved upon, this will quickly become the problem of the next generation as smog and pollution of air and water are for the current generation.