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Mar. 02, 2011

Asked and Answered

by Carl Flatow

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In my recent post entitled Training Wheels I wondered why BMW would be building a new electric car plant while also moving toward new hybrid propulsion systems, as reported in the NY Times. Naturally, the Times also published the answer (it’s hard to keep up with all this reporting!)

China is also helping to drive the development of electric cars and giving car companies more confidence that they can invest in the new technology and find a market.

With pollution already a grave problem in some cities, carmakers expect the Chinese authorities to put restrictions on gasoline vehicles that would not apply to cars that produced no tailpipe emissions. The European manufacturers also fear that Chinese companies like BYD will get a big lead in battery technology.

The i3 battery-powered car, which BMW plans to start selling in 2013, is aimed partly at wealthier buyers in Chinese megacities. “There will be more regulations that affect mobility,” Ian Robertson, the company’s sales chief, said in Munich this week.

China was also a factor behind the Leaf, the battery-powered car that Nissan is to begin selling this year. “China is a sort of a turbocharger on electric vehicle growth around the world,” said Simon Sproule, a spokesman for Nissan, which is based in Japan and closely allied with Renault in France. China has also become Nissan’s largest market.

…indicating that I was wrong to think that American government policy or consumer demand was driving electric car policy. We’re just lucky enough to have the opportunity to pick up some electric Chinese leftovers while we fund the development of better and better hybrids.

About Carl Flatow

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