New energy vehicles draw interest at auto show

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 1:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 1:23am

Global carmakers have pinned their hopes on China's electric car market which has the potential to become the largest in the world as government incentives help drive up demand.

China could become the largest electric car market within five years if the central government continued its incentives, including subsidies for buying green cars, and if there was a proliferation of charging stations, Andy Palmer, Nissan's chief planning officer said at the Auto China show in Beijing, which opens to the public today.

The Japanese carmaker this year introduced its Venucia electric car, a brand produced with its Chinese joint venture partner Dongfeng Motor. Palmer said Nissan was bullish about the Chinese market because of the growing urban population and concerns over pollution.

"We already see pollution affecting people's health, and we are simply human so cannot afford to have this happen," Palmer said. "Carmakers can be part of the problem, or they can be part of the solution."

However, its plan to launch new models would still depend on the development of the market in the next two to three years, he said.

Any technology is expensive in the beginning and this is one of the difficulties facing electric vehicle development, he said. "Normally you need some kind of incentives from the government to stimulate that market. We see that happening now in many places around the world."

Developing a charging station network was another difficulty that would need government support, he said.

Despite the infrastructure shortcomings and technology hurdles, new-energy cars have been increasingly recognised in the Chinese market, with manufacturers promoting them as a highlight at the auto show.

A total of 1,134 car models are being displayed at the show, of which 79 are new-energy vehicles, according to the organiser.

The BMW i3 all-electric car also attracted many visitors during a media preview of the show yesterday.

The German premium brand plans to introduce the i3 and its hybrid i8 car to China in the next couple of months, BMW's global sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson said in Beijing yesterday.

"There is great potential here but there are also a number of challenges, for example infrastructure," he said. "The government is taking good steps in terms of incentives and motivations."

New-energy car sales for Chinese electric car maker BYD were robust in the first quarter, a company representative said. More than 1,000 units had been sold since BYD received approval to launch its electric cars in Shanghai in February. However, growth in manufacturing capacity was lagging behind the increase in demand, limiting sales growth, the representative said.

BYD's joint venture with German carmaker Daimler is also ready to launch an electric car in China under the Denza brand in September.

Thomas Weber, Daimler's head of research and development, said at the show that Denza was the first complete vehicle that Daimler had developed with BYD outside Germany.