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When thinking of Chinese cars, and electric cars, in particular, the most common reaction are that they are ugly deathtraps. Such assumptions might have been true in the past but the Chinese Government set a goal to dominate the EV sector, and results are starting to show. Chinese and international automakers are scrambling to ready themselves for the new requirements starting in 6 months when their sales should consist of 10% EVs after which it will increase to 12% by 2020. More stringent technical specifications to qualify for tax incentives also came into effect in April this year leading to a flurry of range improvements of existing and new models.
On May 22, 2018, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology responsible for regulating the EV sector released its latest catalog of newly approved new energy vehicles, which includes buses, cars, and commercial vehicles. A total of 1987 models were entered in the latest batch of which 348 models were passenger cars consisting of 294 pure electric cars and 54 plug-in hybrids from brands such as BYD, SAIC, JAC, and Guangzhou Automobile. (The list should not be confused with the list the Ministry together with the State Administration of Taxation release to show which EVs are eligible for exemption of tax on vehicles and other state and provincial subsidies.) The catalog which is the 4th this year contains all variants of a model and upgrades to older models. The actual number of new EVs sofar in 2018 is just over seventy which I will list below.
Although there were the usual bunch of ugly ducklings, there seems to be a general trend of improved quality options to the consumer, which should cause concern for Western automakers. The handful of imports that formed part of the list included the usual suspects, being PHEV models from BMW, Audi, Ford, and Mercedes.
The quality and technical abilities of Chinese EVs are improving rapidly. The improvements in Chinese engineering capabilities can be ascribed to its increased exposure to western technical expertise through ownership of Western automakers, such as in the case of Geely owning Volvo or through R&D centers in Silicon Valley, Germany, and Italy such as NIO. New models released this year are packed with technology. The SAIC Roewe Marvel X will be the first mass-produced car equipped with AR (augmented reality) technology.
Chinese automakers are becoming quite proficient at developing battery electric vehicles (BEV), and the 2018 cohort of SUVs and sedans all have a range between 300km/188mi and 500km/313mi (NEDC). The plug-in hybrid models are also pushing 80km/50mi which in real terms is around 30 miles, equivalent to the best EVs from Western automakers. Significantly most of the EVs in the 2018 batch is available at or below $25,000 to the consumers after subsidies, with more than half priced at $10,000 or less.
Not only are new EVs pushing the envelope in quality, price, and range nearly al existing favorites received significant range upgrades at no increase in price as some EV models now enter their fourth generation. The 2018 A00 class models, the most popular market segment now all have a range between 200km/125mi and 300km/188mi, more than enough for city life.
The surge in new EV models in the first half of 2018 is definitely not an anomaly, there are much more exciting EVs coming to market in the next couple of years. Last week Geely announced that it intends to bring 20 new electrified models to market by 2020, that’s less than 18 months away, meaning they will have to launch an EV each month. The Weima EX5 and EX6 and SiTech EV are some of the exciting new EVs that will enter the Chinese market later this year.
The threat posed by China’s increased dominance of the EV sector is not limited to the local market but also to big auto in the West as some of these models and brands are destined for Western markets. Chery is in the process of creating an EV brand that will exclusively operate in Europe. NIO and Borgward will bring the NIO ES8 and Borgward BXi7 to Western markets while SF Motors is setting up shop in the USA to manufacture the SF5 and SF7 EV SUVs. SAIC is also bringing its MAXUS electric commercial vehicles to Europe from 2019 while Geely’s Lynk & Co is destinated to be an international brand.
Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, recently, lashed out at the local auto sector for their reluctance to commit to investing their efforts in EVs. Minister Altmaier warned the countries large automakers which include BMW, Daimler, and the VW Group that they will be left behind by international competitors. Altmaier demanded automakers to except that electric vehicles are the future and implement reforms to set the course for an environmentally-friendly future of mobility. This is not the first time that German politicians spoke out against their sector, in August 2017 (Top 5 EV News Week 33/2017) German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she doubted if German automakers were sufficiently innovative enough to progress the electric vehicle technology. Altmaier stopped short though of calling for a ban on diesel vehicles. A recent ruling by German courts gave cities the right to introduce driving bans on diesel vehicles. Judging from China’s latest approved new energy vehicles, it seems that the politicians for one are right.
China’s 2018 batch of new EVs in the diagram is listed below. Just click on the link to get the full specs. Remember you can purchase an annual subscription granting access to my full online database of monthly Chinese new EV batches, vehicles qualifying for tax subsidies and Chinese EV sales. Contact me here for more details of this unique service.