China has used electric vehicle regulations to grow their electric vehicle market. It may seem, by some appearances, to suddenly have emerged on the world stage as a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles. A recent New York Times article says China has created regulations that promote the rapid growth of the industry. The rest of the world is trying to break into the Chinese market, and also to catch up in their own domestic manufacture and sale of electric vehicles.
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Most major automakers have pledged to add more electric vehicles to their offerings years from now. Many of them will also be hoping for a more open Chinese market in which to sell them. In addition, they will be partnering with Chinese companies for their manufacture.
Electric Vehicle Regulations
& The American Road Trip
The United States has been relatively slow to create a culture that supports electric passenger vehicles. The US only buys about 2% of the world’s electric vehicles. That may be in part due to a lack of public infrastructure that supports inter-state or cross-country travel beyond a purely electric car’s range. While looking at this map certainly may be encouraging, this impressive visualization of existing electric car charging stations does not match the sheer availability that gas power affords American drivers. (Although hybrid-electric vehicles could certainly drive on gas and/or electric, the point is that electric vehicle drivers may feel the same kind of anxiety that early cell phone users did. If you remember carrying several Blackberry batteries around with you, you get the picture.)
Americans tend to drive around 30 miles per day, which is now well-within range for electric vehicles. Even during holidays, with most Americans averaging 50 miles or more away from home, most modern electric vehicles are rated for more than 100 miles of travel (“Hi, so great to see you! Can we plug in our car?”). Of course, once you factor in possible traffic jams on the way to or from your holiday destination, getting stranded in an EV seems intuitively possible. Electric vehicle owners would have to plan more in order to safely and uninterruptedly travel with the same confidence that one might have hitting the road in an internal combustion engine. (This is not true for hybrid vehicles.)
With a fractured electric vehicle market with standards that have not quite entered the mainstream thinking of most U.S. citizens, they may find electric car purchases daunting.
In the same way, regulations save lives on the highways by establishing speed limits given road conditions and average American cars, electric vehicle regulations could help the electric car industry standardize conventions so that Americans have a core set of understanding for all-electric vehicles so they can make informed choices about which car might fit their needs.
Could Regulations Fix These Problems?
No one has ever cobbled the two words “regulatory” and “paradise” other than pejoratively. On the other hand, regulations are exactly what China is using to create a boom in its electric vehicle manufacturing and adaption.
Among government actions promoting electric vehicle adaption in China are:
- Forcing foreign manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles inside of China
- Forcing foreign manufacturers to form joint ventures with Chinese companies
- Ceasing manufacture of internal combustion engines
The New York Times says China is expected to sell 300,000 electric vehicles within its borders this year, and it could quite possibly take further steps to permit electric vehicle regulations allowing the sale of more electric foreign vehicles. That would be a boon for US auto manufacturers.
While there is no single popular model of electric car manufactured by China, much of the world’s supply chain for electric cars remains within China. No matter how many electric vehicles are made in China, if coal remains the upstream energy source, electric cars will lack a climate change advantage over regular internal combustion engines.
Electric Vehicle Regulations – In Conclusion
There is a new advertising campaign designed to cast as wide a net as possible to interest Americans in electric vehicles. Interestingly, it is taking place mainly in the Northeastern United States, where energy prices are higher. Hopefully, renewable energy investment in that region of the US will expand so people will have better economic conditions for consuming electricity by driving their cars. Additionally, if the industry could agree on at least charging standards, methods and language, Americans might be more willing to buy more electric vehicles.
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