China has become the most powerful political force driving the globalization of electric vehicle (EV) technology. And, while natural driving forces such as dwindling fossil fuel resources and the hazards of climate change are also hastening change, these political pressures are, for now, the most effective driving factors in the electric car revolution.
Much of China’s journey toward EVs has been fueled by necessity. The Chinese government has invested vast sums of money into the industry and set aggressive pro-electric regulations because of its citizens suffering from worsening air pollution and because of the country’s overall goal of technological dominance including developments in artificial intelligence (AI).
At least one expert has asserted that all cars in China will be electric by 2030. The government is expected to ban production of fossil fuel vehicles soon. This is impressive for any country, but the automobile market in China is so vast that the nation’s policy decisions have global impact. China already makes and sells more EVs than any other country, and Chinese buyers will purchase more than three times as many EVs than American buyers in 2017 — and more than the rest of the world’s buyers altogether. And, although China taxes import cars at ten times the rate we do here in the US, Chinese
buyers still purchase more General Motors (GM) cars than Americans.
There is no guarantee that China will be able to dominate the electric car market. Despite notable auto manufacturing skills, the nation hasn’t yet developed a car that has become a trendy import, which is necessary to extend its influence. Most Chinese car buyers still prefer American and European cars, although joint ventures with international automakers may allow China’s car designers to imitate their style in the future.
The market is responding to China’s electric car boom as you might expect. GM, Ford, and Volkswagen are all adding electric models to their offerings and moving R&D operations for EVs to China. The Chinese government has made it a priority to recruit top electrical engineering talent from around the world, including the US.
This isn’t China’s first rodeo in terms of transforming industries. With its knockout combination of cheap, plentiful labor and strong government support, China has previously changed the steel making and clothing industries, and green energy businesses more recently. However, the auto industry is taking this pattern to an entirely new scale.
Meanwhile, for Chinese citizens, the environmental benefits of electric cars can’t come too soon and it will feel like they’re a long time coming. Especially in big cities like Beijing, citizens are exposed to highly hazardous air regularly. There will be no turning back for China, and it seems that the country will be leading the rest of the world in the right direction.