But these vehicles won't stir much excitement -- and rightly so
Why? The experts realize that Chinese automakers aren't ready to match the EVs developed by international automakers.
The most prominent skeptic is China's top automotive regulator -- Miao Wei, minister of Industry and Information Technology.
As the former CEO of Dongfeng Motor Corp., Miao is acutely aware of the limitations of Chinese automakers.
At an economic forum in Beijing last week, Miao warned that new industries like the EV sector cannot emerge overnight.
Drawing on his long automotive experience, Miao said China's auto industry must improve the performance of its batteries before mass-producing EVs.
Wu Jinglian, a well-respected economist with the Development Research Center of the State Council, sounded a similar warning at a February conference in Beijing.
The rush among Chinese automakers to build EVs -- if left unchecked -- will end in failure with a huge waste of resources, Wu said.
Wu even compared the EV initiatives to China's disastrous "Great Leap Forward" in 1958, when Mao Zedong tried to modernize China by encouraging farmers to produce steel using homemade furnaces.
Miao and Wu are not lonely skeptics. Their views are increasingly shared by China's automotive professionals.
I have talked to EV engineers who work for Chinese automakers. They tell me the domestic companies can't possibly leapfrog global brands such as GENERAL MOTORS (CHEVY VOLT) or Nissan (Leaf).
The best they can do, they say, is to ensure that the Chinese automakers do not lag far behind.
That's why Chinese automakers are starting to work with global battery makers.
Last year, for example, Chery Automobile Co. formed a partnership with Better Place, a battery maker based in California.
SAIC Motor Corp. has formed a venture with U.S. battery maker A123 Systems. And Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. teamed up with Korean supplier LG Chem Ltd. to develop lithium-ion batteries.
Supported by generous government subsidies, domestic Chinese companies have developed numerous EV prototypes.
These vehicles will be showcased next month at the Shanghai auto show. But untested technology, high prices and a lack of charging stations seem likely to doom them to municipal taxi fleets.
While that may disappoint EV advocates, auto executives are shifting from blind optimism to clear-eyed realism. And that's a healthy development.
Source: Auto News China
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