China will top sales for electric cars, BMW says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 1:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 1:10am

BMW predicts the mainland will become the world's largest market for electric vehicles as more charging infrastructure is built and the central government promotes clean cars to cut pollution.

The mainland would reach that target in at most five years, BMW's China head, Karsten Engel, said at an event in Shanghai on Wednesday marking the carmaker's collaboration with the city's municipal power company.

Fan Ye, general manager for electric vehicles at State Grid Shanghai, said that as part of the partnership, State Grid would build public charging points at the former World Expo site, one of 46 such areas in the city where electric-vehicle owners would be able to recharge their cars by the end of the year.

"We expect that the Chinese car market for electro-mobility will become the largest markets for those cars in a few years," Engel said. "Because you have supply now, there are cars coming on the market. We are coming with ours; others are coming as well."

BMW joins Volkswagen among carmakers betting on alternative-energy vehicles to fuel future growth in the world's largest car market. VW plans to unveil more than 15 electrified models on the mainland by 2018, Daimler is building electric vehicles with Chinese carmaker BYD and Tesla Motors delivered its first Model S cars to the mainland last month.

The public charging points at the former Expo site in Shanghai would be compatible with electric vehicles made by BMW and other brands, including BYD and SAIC Motor, but not Tesla's cars, Fan said. Tesla has said it plans to install a large supercharger network on the mainland.

BMW expected to start selling its i3 on the mainland in September, offering the model and the i8 in seven dealerships, Engel said. BMW would probably sell fewer than 1,000 i3s on the mainland this year because of a lack of supply, he said.

The Munich-based company would be "happy" to sell more than 400,000 cars in total on the mainland this year, he said. The market would slow for the rest of the year after expanding faster than anticipated in the first four months, Engel said.

BMW said it sold 390,713 cars on the mainland last year.

Five years after the mainland began promoting new-energy vehicles, fewer than 70,000 are on its roads, lagging behind the central government's target of reaching 500,000 by next year.