The Chinese auto industry will make development and production of electric and hybrid vehicles its top priority over the next five years, according to its latest Five-year Plan. By 2015, China aims to sell 1 million “new-energy” automobiles, according to a report in People’s Daily.
(Reuters) – Europe took the first steps toward a massive roll-out of electric vehicles on Wednesday, backing up past rhetoric with plans for pan-European standards that the industry has cried out for.
“Without strong standardization work, I think it will be difficult to develop a market for electric cars,” European Union industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said as he launched his E.U. green vehicles strategy.
“This is not an abstract concept, it’s a set of 40 practical actions,” he added.
French carmaker Renault has joined forces with California’s Better Place in a project to put electric cars and their charging infrastructure on the roads of Denmark and Israel by 2011.
But critics question whether common standards will be ready in time, or whether investors risk laying down infrastructure that will later have to be torn up and replaced.
In advance of this fall’s launch of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, lithium ion battery manufacturers are breaking ground on manufacturing plants nearly every month.
Nearly $2 billion in stimulus funding has spurred the building of facilities in Michigan and Indiana that will start churning out battery packs by the end of the year, but the escalation in production has the potential to outstrip the demand for the batteries by as early as 2012.
As I said during yesterday’s interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the battery companies have understandable but potentially misguided motivations to quickly ramp up production. For battery companies to receive the full amount of stimulus grants and loans, they must meet specified goals for production capacity.
At a factory in Wuxi, China, workers lift solar panels onto conveyor belts, while others in white lab coats move between machines as they check on a process for etching and engraving silicon wafers to form solar cells.
This scene in itself isn’t remarkable. But there is a new sort of excitement about the work. China’s production of solar panels has grown quickly in the past two years; it is it now the world’s leading exporter. When Matt Lewis, a representative of the California-based nonprofit ClimateWorks, visited the factory in October, he said it reminded him of his native Silicon Valley: The workers, even ordinary line workers, had a sense that they were part of building the future, the hot new industry.
Electric cars are a green movement that is finally moving. Shunted to the side as the public indulged its love affair with gas-guzzling SUVs and four-wheel-drive trucks, history has finally caught up with the plug-in vehicle.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the domestic auto industry’s biggest annual showcase, and the new models have traditionally been brought out in a son et lumière of dancing girls, deafening music, and dry ice smoke. The few green cars that made it this far were usually for display only — very few actually made it to showrooms.
But not this year. It’s become a race to market for green cars, and soon you’ll be able to buy many of the electric vehicles that were on display last week in Detroit. The auto show featured one hybrid and battery electric car introduction after another. Although the only truly road-worthy, plug-in electric vehicle you can buy today is the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, by the end of 2010 it will be joined by such contenders as the Nissan Leaf, Coda sedan, and the Think City.