Insights as to why the Chinese are favoring battery electric vehicles over hybrids were recently offered by a Beijing-based auto publication.
China Car Times observed that the Chinese government is pushing heavily for “new energy cars” over hybrids because Chinese industry will likely never catch up to the technology offered by European, American or Japanese cars.
For this reason a carrot-and-stick incentive policy is heavily weighted toward developing EVs, leaving hybrids about as unwanted as a second child in the eyes of central planners.
Presently, a private buyer can offset an EV purchase by as much as 60,000 Yuan ($9,314) in subsidies from the central government and possibly more by other locally offered subsidies, the editorial said.
In contrast, a hybrid buyer can get 3,000 Yuan ($465) in subsidies and the displacement must be under 1.6 liters. This is no different than subsidies for other non-hybrid fuel-efficient cars.
This policy is going on despite the fact that China has scant infrastructure to charge short-range, cheap and slow EVs, and the planners know this, the writer said, but there is method to the madness.
“Chinese-developed hybrid cars always consume more fuel than conventional cars,” China Car Times said, “Even Buick LaCrosse Hybrid, a car developed by GM’s technical center in China, cannot save fuel in city driving conditions, let alone other hybrid cars of local brands.”
Because a hybrid car represents a technological “pinnacle” – with its efficient internal combustion engine and complicated gearbox used for shifting as well as electromechanical coupling – the Chinese know they would be fighting a losing battle.
“Most Chinese car makers can develop neither engine controller nor automatic transmission,” said China Car Times. “How can they develop an acceptable hybrid system?”
The answer is: they can’t, so move on to save face, said the editorial.
A poorly performing hybrid can be a plainly seen embarrassment compared to better performing imported hybrids, or even well-designed conventional economy cars.
As such, EVs represent something closer to starting from scratch. Presently, they are simpler to design and build, and range and recharge performance is relatively low the world over by internal-combustion and hybrid car standards.
“That is why Chinese automotive industry prefers pure electric than hybrid – it masks the poor foundation of car industry, and takes on a sense of prosperity temporarily,” wrote China Car Times.
This also highlights China’s underlying incentive to push for joint ventures where ever possible with advanced industry from abroad.
And as for its own growing industry, China is expediently encouraging domestic manufacturers and buyers to favor EVs as a no-brainer.
The writer ends asking whether these cars have many technical advantages. “We are following up foreign technology,” said Wen Jiabao, China’s Prime Minister this month.