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Opinion: China, not Tesla, is driving the electric-car revolution
By Jack Barkenbus Published: May 15, 2019 9:01 a.m. ET


Chinese consumers bought 1.1 million electric vehicles last year; U.S. sales were 358,000


AFP/Getty Images
Visitors look at a Gyon electric luxury car at the Shanghai Auto Show in April.

ByJackBarkenbus2019年 4月,游客们在上海车展上观看“歌昂”豪华电动车

The electric vehicle revolution is coming, but it won’t be driven by the U.S. Instead, China will be at the forefront.


Huge government backing


China has a fledgling, but ambitious, automobile industry. It has never been able to match the efficiency and quality of established auto makers at making gas-powered vehicles, but electric vehicles are easier to build, giving Chinese firms a new opportunity to compete.


The Chinese government, therefore, has chosen to highlight electric vehicles as one of 10 commercial sectors central to its “Made in China” effort to boost advanced industrial technology. Government efforts include using billions of dollars to subsidize manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries, and encouraging businesses and consumers to buy them.


The government is also aware that electric vehicles could help solve some of China’s most pressing energy and environmental concerns: Massive air pollution chokes its major cities, national security officials are worried about how much oil the country imports and China is now the nation contributing most to global climate change emissions.


New companies


Scores of Chinese auto-making companies have formed to profit from these subsidies. A major player is BYD BYDDY, +2.06% 002594, -1.16%, which stands for “Build Your Dreams,” based in Shenzhen. More than a decade ago, billionaire investor Warren Buffett bought about a quarter of the company for $232 million — a share that is now worth more than $1.5 billion.

已有数十家中国汽车制造企业受从补贴中受益。总部位于深圳的比亚迪公司是其中主要的参与者,BYD的含义为“筑梦”(Build Your Dreams)。十多年前,亿万富翁沃伦?巴菲特以2.32亿美元的价格购买了该公司大约四分之一的股份,目前现在这部分股份价值已超过15亿美元。

The company’s initial plans to export vehicles to the U.S. proved premature and fizzled. BYD instead started to focus mainly on the Chinese auto market, as well as building electric buses for the global market, which it now dominates.

事实证明, BYD公司起先向美国出口汽车的计划是不成熟的,最终以失败告终。相反,比亚迪开始注重中国汽车市场,以及该公司目前在全球市场上占据主导地位的电动巴士

China’s domestic auto makers have largely not yet engaged in the export market. Electric vehicle industry analyst Jose Pontes says there are three reasons for their reluctance: First, the Chinese market is big enough to absorb their current production. Second, many car companies in China are utterly unknown in the West, so customers would be wary of buying from a strange brand. And third, their cars do not yet comply with strict safety regulations in the U.S. and Europe.

中国国内汽车生产商基本上尚未涉足出口市场。电动汽车行业分析师何塞?庞特斯(Jose Pontes)表示,他们之所以不愿这么做,有三个原因:第一,中国市场足够大,能够内部消化目前的产量。其次,中国汽车品牌在西方默默无闻,所以消费者在购买一个陌生品牌的汽车时比较谨慎。第三,他们的汽车还不符合美国和欧洲严格的安全规定。

Jack Barkenbus is a visiting scholar at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy & Environment at Vanderbilt University. This was first published on The Conversation — “The electric vehicle revolution will come from China, not the US.”