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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,游客們在上海車展上觀看“歌昂”豪華電動車

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.

已有數十家中國汽車制造企業受從補貼中受益。總部位于深圳的比亞迪公司是其中主要的參與者,BYD的含義為“筑夢”(Build Your Dreams)。十多年前,億萬富翁沃倫?巴菲特以2.32億美元的價格購買了該公司大約四分之一的股份,目前現在這部分股份價值已超過15億美元。

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.

事實證明, BYD公司起先向美國出口汽車的計劃是不成熟的,最終以失敗告終。相反,比亞迪開始注重中國汽車市場,以及該公司目前在全球市場上占據主導地位的電動巴士

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.

中國國內汽車生產商基本上尚未涉足出口市場。電動汽車行業分析師何塞?龐特斯(Jose Pontes)表示,他們之所以不愿這么做,有三個原因:第一,中國市場足夠大,能夠內部消化目前的產量。其次,中國汽車品牌在西方默默無聞,所以消費者在購買一個陌生品牌的汽車時比較謹慎。第三,他們的汽車還不符合美國和歐洲嚴格的安全規定。

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.”