China X Cleantech — Electric Bus Leadership, Hot EV Startups, Solar Domination, & Other Q1 2018 News

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Welcome to China X Cleantech, where we talk about electric vehicles (EV) and other clean technology in China. Click the link above for the full China X Cleantech page. Subscribe to the China X Cleantech newsletter here.

Electric Buses

At the beginning of the year (er, end of 2017), we got word that the entire Shenzhen bus fleet — 16,359 buses — had gone fully electric. Think of any large city in North America or Europe and look at the size of its bus fleet — it won’t compare to 16,359 buses. The biggest electric bus fleet on those continents is probably in the dozens, not even the hundreds. Is there any wonder why China is seen as so far ahead on electric transport?

The video below isn’t from the end of 2017. It’s actually from the end of 2015. But it highlights one of the big phases of bus electrification in Shenzhen and is awesome to watch. It will be a bright day when you can film so many electric buses in the United States.

In total, China’s 2017 electric bus sales totaled 89,546, which is actually lower than in 2016 but is still a stunningly high number that dwarfs electric bus sales around the world combined.

China Electric Bus Sales
December 36,191
November 18,113
October 6,568
September 8,169
August 5,772
July 5,470
June 6,540
May 1,623
April 452
March 617
February 0
January 31
Total 89,546

Year China Electric Bus Sales
2011 1136
2012 1904
2013 1672
2014 12,760
2015 94,260
2016 115,700
2017 89,546
TOTAL 316,978

A more localized breakdown of where those sales occurred can be found in this article.

Also, if you want to see who’s producing the batteries for those electric buses, check out this piece.

EV Startups

Jia Yueting, founder of Faraday Future and LeEco, decided to skip returning to China and hide undercover rather than face the consequences of a failed business with significant financial challenges. So, it was a big surprise a few months later to see that Faraday Future had somewhat risen from the ashes, broken ground on a factory, and started repaying its debt. What? … Well, something has been going on behind the scenes to try to save a business, some careers, and perhaps Jia Yueting’s prospects of returning to China.

Byton electric SUVNeed another smart, electric, tech-packed, self-driving, Chinese SUV/CUV to drool over? Need another Chinese EV startup to pray for as it tries to get from concept level to production and then mass production? Byton’s got your back. Is it more likely to go the route of Tesla, Baker Electric, or Faraday Future? You decide. But the concept is certainly attractive.

Speaking of …

He Xiaopeng Motors He Xiaopeng Motors

Yet another contestant joining the competition is Xiaopeng Motors, led by Alibaba-backed He Xiaopeng. In Elon Musk style, Xiaopeng is willing to put his entire fortune on the line for this. Hopefully he has more early success than Jia Yueting. Foxconn is also backing the startup, which is a notable sign of support given Foxconn’s huge experience in manufacturing and making money.

And the freshest face on the China-backed EV startup scene is SF Motors, which has one leg in China and one in the USA. We were at the launch of the SF5 and SF7 in San Francisco and think the company has some wicked potential and a lot of core groundwork laid. It also has Tesla co-founder and former CEO Martin Eberhard onboard. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this company, and perhaps reporting some exclusives on the firm’s development in the coming months, so keep an eye on CleanTechnica to keep an eye on SF Motors.

On-demand taxi giant Didi Chuxing (China’s Uber) is getting into the electric carsharing game, and in no small way. The carsharing service is in collaboration with 12 of the top auto manufacturers operating in the country, including the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, BYD, BAIC BJEV, Chery, Zotye Automobile, Kia, and Ford.

A potential Tesla factory in China has been facing unexpected challenges, but who’s really surprised?

Large Automakers Going Electric … in China

As far as large automakers, Nissan is the latest to make a big announcement about a big move into China. It is pumping $9.5 billion into China’s auto market over the next 5 years, with a focus on electric vehicles of course.

BMW Group announced that a joint venture between it and Great Wall Motor would manufacture electric MINI offerings in China.

The $7,300–$9,400 Baojun E100 electric car — which is backed in part by GM, SAIC, and Wuling — continues to expand in availability across China. Will the US or Europe ever see it? Don’t count on it. A $7,310 to $9,385 electric car would be too popular there. 😉 More seriously, there are likely a variety of governmental, business, and consumer matters that will keep the E100 or anything like it away from North America and Europe.


You can’t be a serious car company today without having a leg in the autonomous vehicle (AV) world. As such, Chery, a rather large Chinese automaker but not one of the biggest, announced it would be using Nvidia tech in its cars for autonomous transport purposes.

Overall, it’s expected that new AV rules in the country should boost the market considerably. Volkswagen is counting on it.

China also issued its first two licenses for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads. They went to Chinese auto giant SAIC and EV startup NIO. Not long after, Baidu received permission as well.

And here’s a really interesting point that could be instrumental in coming years — Chinese people are much more willing to trust AVs than Americans.

China Clean Energy

The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) noted the obvious in a new report — China will be a clean energy leader in the coming decades, shaping the market to a large degree. China led the way with clean energy investments in 2017. As part of that, the country got 54 gigawatts (GW) of solar power installed (or 52.83 GW according to China’s National Energy Administration).

“China installed about 20GW more solar capacity in 2017 than we forecast,” added Justin Wu, head of Asia-Pacific for BNEF. “This happened for two main reasons: first, despite a growing subsidy burden and worsening power curtailment, China’s regulators, under pressure from the industry, were slow to curb build of utility-scale projects outside allocated government quotas. Developers of these projects are assuming they will be allocated subsidy in future years.

“Second, the cost of solar continues to fall in China, and more projects are being deployed on rooftops, in industrial parks or at other distributed locales. These systems are not limited by the government quota. Large energy consumers in China are now installing solar panels to meet their own demand, with a minimal premium subsidy.”

That Chinese contribution of 53 or 54 GW was more than half of new global solar PV installations in 2017, which totalled nearly 99 GW.

It was revealed that China also installed 19.5 GW of wind power in 2017.

On the flip side of all that clean energy growth, coal power plant development constricted a bit in the wake of stricter regulations in China. Researchers tracking that actually expect the global fleet of coal-fired power plants to start declining in capacity in 2022.

Unfortunately, despite all the clean power progress, dirty power does still account for a large portion of China’s power capacity and generation growth, which is part of the reason why Chinese pollution sources have increased more than 50% in the last 8 years.

It’s outside of China, but as a sign of things to come, Chinese solar PV giant JinkoSolar announced that its world record breaking 1177 MW Sweihan project — co-developed by JinkoSolar, Marubeni, and the Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (“ADEWA”) — was named the Large Scale Solar Project of the Year by the Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA).

Government Support for EVs & Clean Energy

More details on revised national government support for electric vehicles was explained in January. And there’s also now a new frontier of electric vehicle support — support for delivery and freight vehicles.

Naturally, the Chinese government is pushing back via the World Trade Organization on solar tariffs the Trump administration decided to impose on Chinese solar cells and solar panels. Additionally, three Canadian solar manufacturers — Silfab Solar, Heliene, and Canadian Solar — have filed a lawsuit about the 30% tariffs with the US Court of International Trade in New York.


We got word that the EV charging network in China grew a whopping 51% in 2017. That is surely needed as China electric vehicle sales continue popping. I’d expect similar growth in 2018.

Chinese battery giant CATL has been prepping for a $2 billion IPO, with plans to become the largest battery manufacturer in the world by 2020. Watch out.

Speaking of batteries, BYD, another top battery producer in China and globally, announced it is setting up a battery recycling facility in China.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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