Global giants eye potential for new energy vehicles
People gather at the booth of Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio, as it unveiled its ES8 SUV model at the international auto show in Shanghai on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]
The world's major carmakers are showing their latest new energy cars－some of them concept models－at the ongoing Shanghai auto show, eying up the potential of the world's largest new energy car market.
A total of 507,000 electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars were sold in China in 2016, a 53 percent surge year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Xu Yanhua, deputy secretary-general of the association, said the sales of such cars this year in China are expected to reach 800,000 units, growing 57.8 percent year-on-year.
Jaguar Land Rover is showcasing an electric concept car－the Jaguar I-Pace SUV. According to the British premium carmaker, the vehicle can finish a 0-100 kilometer-per-hour sprint in around four seconds.
Pan Qing, executive director of Jaguar Land Rover China, said: "New energy car sales will undoubtedly maintain their momentum. By 2020, half of all our models globally will have electric versions."
Bentley Motors is showing its electric concept car, called the EXP 12 Speed 6e, which can run for 500 km, with one of its aims to be see how Chinese people react to it.
Wolfgang Duerheimer, the marque's chairman and CEO, said Bentley needs to find out whether Chinese customers like it, as China represents one-third of its global market.
The luxury brand's new energy vehicles strategy starts with plug-in hybrid models, with the Bentayga SUV to roll out in 2018.
Volume brands are coming up with plans for larger portfolios.
On Tuesday, Volkswagen AG debuted its electric crossover ID Crozz that can run for 500 km, and it said earlier that it will introduce 15 new energy vehicles into China in three to four years.
The German manufacturer also hopes to form a joint venture just for new energy vehicles with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, and the first cars are to roll out in 2018, said Jochem Heizmann, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group China.
China's drive for electric vehicles, driven in part to combat urban smog, has put pressure on Toyota Motor Corp to rethink its earlier scepticism about battery-electric technology.
Reuters reported that Toyota will locally build plug-in hybrids and sell them in China, starting in 2018, although it has not said when all-electric car models would hit Chinese showrooms.
Ford Motor Co stole the thunder by announcing its new energy vehicle strategy 11 days before the auto show started.
On April 6, it said it will launch in China a plug-in hybrid sedan called the Mondeo Energi in 2018. It also plans to bring an all-electric sport utility vehicle to China over the next five years.
"The time is right for Ford to expand our electric car lineup and investments in China," said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields.
"We are prioritizing our electrification efforts in China to reflect its importance as a global electric vehicle market."
Specifically, 70 percent of all Ford models in China will have electrified powertrain options by 2025, including all those produced by Changan Ford Automobile Co Ltd.
Yale Zhang, managing director of consulting firm Automotive Foresight Shanghai, said: "People still have mileage worries and complain about current battery technology and inadequate charging poles, but they are confident about the future."