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Electric Cars Get a Needed Jolt in China

China and global companies are taking new steps to fulfill the country’s ambitions for electric cars, which so far have exceeded Beijing’s grasp.

Chinese auto makers BYD Co. 002594.SZ +3.01% and BAIC Motor Co. on Wednesday won approval from Beijing’s municipal government to sell electric cars in the city. Shares of BYD, which is partially backed by Warren Buffett, jumped 9.6% in Hong Kong. BYD’s all-electric e6 crossover has been sold mainly in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where the company is based. Most of the vehicles operate as taxicabs and buses.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s ABB Ltd. ABB.SK +0.92% said it would make and market home, wall-mounted, electric-car chargers in China, part of an effort to address a lack of charging stations and other infrastructure necessary if electric cars are to hit China’s roads in serious numbers.

Chunyuan Gu, ABB’s China chairman and president, said he believed demand for cars and charging equipment will take off after a slow start. “Either you believe or you don’t believe,” he said. “What’s difficult to predict is how fast the volume will come.”

China’s government wants 500,000 hybrid and electric vehicles on its roads by next year and five million by 2020. But only around 17,600 such vehicles were purchased in China last year, including hybrid and pure-electric cars and buses. It is likely that no more than 50,000 such vehicles are in use in China.
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