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China’s electric cars: socket shortage

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China got a bit of a late start on the internal combustion engine and has yet to produce a globally-competitive home-grown automaker. So Beijing decided several years ago that it might be better to leapfrog that entire generation of cars and go straight to electric vehicles instead.

Unfortunately, it’s proved harder than expected to build an affordable and practical electric car in China; despite hefty government subsidies, private sales of electric cars have not got off the ground. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there is no public infrastructure for charging private vehicles (taxi fleets have proven easier to convert to electric). But in Shanghai, at least, things might be changing.

The Shanghai city government has decided to try jump starting the industry by subsidising rentals of electric cars in one of the city’s districts – perhaps not coincidentally, the same Jiading district where state-owned automaker SAIC makes its own compact e-car, the Roewe E50.

Ray Zhang, CEO of Chinese car rental market pioneer eHi, told the Financial Times in an interview at the time of the just-ended Shanghai auto show that his company will rent the E50 for about the same price as a petrol-powered car – Rmb100-150 ($16-24) a day – but charging it will cost about a tenth of the cost of buying petrol. The purchase price to eHi of the pure electric E50 will drop from Rmb230,000 each to Rmb130,000 thanks to subsidies from the Shanghai and Jiading district governments.


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