China × Cleantech — August

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The world is changing fast, but many worry it is not fast enough, so let’s review the biggest cleantech news from China in August. As always, there’s much news out of China. In order to aggregate and summarize the highlights, this edition of our China × Cleantech feature separates the stories by a handful of broad topics. This report is also published over on the “Future Trends” section of our website.

Renewable Energy

Chinese renewable energy has kept making headlines for multiple reasons. Firstly, reports from China’s National Energy Administration showed that China installed 24.3 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2018, the report broke down this 24.3 gigawatts into 12.6 GW of utility-scale solar and 12.24 GW of distributed solar. Although, these great numbers have to be understood in the context that in June it was announced that a cap would be placed on distributed solar for 2018 and the feed-in tariff would be reduced.

A World Resources Institute article was published by CleanTechnica specifically about distributed solar PV in China, going into detail on its growth in the past and the challenges it faces now and in the future.

China’s solar PV marketplace has not just been impacted by its own governments’ cap and cuts to feed-in tariffs, but also by the US government’s decision to impose tariffs on Chinese solar products, which has now led to China filling a complaint with the WTO about the USA’s solar tariffs. Meanwhile, the EU just dropped import controls on Chinese solar panels.

Electric Vehicles

Nissan and Dongfeng announced that they started production of their newest electric vehicle, the Sylphy ZE, which is aimed to be an affordable electric car that mixes its joint ventures’ best-selling models but is essentially using the new Nissan Leaf’s powertrain.

Following the announcement of the location of the next Tesla Gigafactory, in Shanghai, it was revealed that Tesla will fund the Shanghai Gigafactory from local loans in China. A number of other key details about the Shanghai Gigafactory were also revealed, such as its intended initial production capacity of 250,000, which Tesla eventually wants to increase to 500,000 vehicles per year, and the timeline of when they want the factory to be ready for production — which is within 3 years.

For much more on the China Tesla Gigafactory story, read “Chinese Media Visit Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory Site” and “Shanghai Government Opens Arms To Tesla” and “Tesla Increases Registered Capital For Shanghai Gigafactory To $681 Million.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Waymo has opened offices in Shanghai, but details on what Waymo plans and how it will approach the Chinese markets are scant. It is very easy to understand why Waymo would target a Chinese market entry — it is a large market with a fast pace of development and companies wanting to get the best-in-class technology to integrate into new products. With other news of a Chinese government–friendly Google search engine, it might just be part of a wider strategy of Alphabet to regain market relevance in China.

Waymo Chrysler Pacifica autonomous car

China Electric Car Sales

Sales figures here are not 100% official, but they are highly informed — seemingly better informed than any other reports on Chinese EV sales.

Chinese EV sales data is a few months behind present deliveries because it takes time for the relevant organizations to release data and for people to collect and check the data. In July, 75,000 units got registered in China, up 64%, with strong growth but not as strong as previously. The slowing growth rate compared to previous months can be explained by “New Energy” subsidies were slashed to vehicles with full-charge driving range lower to 150 km in June. Another big news item that month was the BYD Yuan EV becoming the best selling EV in China in its second month on sale. For more details read the article.

We have the benefit of having just published August sales data as well. Similar to July, year-over-year sales were up 62%. In the same month, plug-in vehicles reached a country peak of 5.2% market share, bringing the 2018 share to 3.1%. The #1 spot in the plug-in car market changed again in August, with the BYD Tang PHEV taking the top spot for the first time.


Steve Hanley has also reported on a Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2018 report that attempts to predict changes to the energy markets from now to 2050. The main Chinese takeaway is that Chinese investments in battery technology and production will lead to China dominating the battery storage market from now into the foreseeable future.

In a separate report, GTM Research reported that the 3rd quarter of 2018 will have the lowest level of solar PV demand since 2015, the reason for this massive drop being down to recent changes to the feed-in tariff and a cap on distributed solar generation.

See our previous China × Cleantech reports for more info from the red giant. Subscribe to the China X Cleantech newsletter to not miss a beat.

For July’s top China cleantech news, check out this report.

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Tim Dixon

When not researching the Chinese electric car market, I am teaching in China. My interest in sustainable development started in University and it led me to work with Tesla Europe in the Supercharger team. I'm interested in science fiction, D&D, and travel. You can follow me on Twitter @TimDixon3.

Tim Dixon has 62 posts and counting. See all posts by Tim Dixon