China is by far the largest electric car market in the world. Domestically built new energy vehicle (NEV) sales totaled 1,728,447 units between January 2011 and December 2017. These figures include heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks. Sales of domestically built new energy passenger cars totaled over 1.2 million units between 2011 and 2017, of which, a total of 579,000 were sold in 2017, representing about half of global plug-in car sales in 2017. Domestically-produced vehicles accounted for about 96% of total plug-in electric vehicle sales.
Port Elizabeth has links to two of the biggest EV manufacturers in the world.
First up is a tenuous one through China-based Geely. Geely owns Volvo. Volvo’s head office in is Gothenburg – Port Elizabeth’s twin city responsible for lots of development here – McArthur Baths and Red Location Museum spring immediately to mind.
A stronger roots down link is through the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Ltd. (BAIC) which has a manufacturing facility within Coega. BAIC is the fifth largest producer of electric vehicles in the world.
Electric vehicles first appeared in the mid-19th century. An electric vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900. The high cost, low top speed, and short range of battery electric vehicles, compared to later internal combustion engine vehicles, led to a worldwide decline in their use.
Newer battery technologies and composites have led to a resurgence of electric vehicles in this century.
The numbers of electric vehicles in South Africa is dismal to say the least – as of December 2015, about 290 plug-in cars were registered. The Nissan Leaf was introduced in October 2013. As of January 2018, this number increased to 375 – representing 0.2% of all registered vehicles.
Contrast the numbers of EV’s in SA with the top selling Chinese plug-in car, the BAIC EC-Series all-electric city car with 78 079 units delivered during 2017, making the city car the world’s top selling plug-in car in 2017.
Does BAIC know something that we don’t? BAIC have an automotive manufacturing facility right here in Port Elizabeth at the Coega Special Economic Zone.
Could the factory have something to do with moving the manufacture of internal combustion engines off shore?
“Some countries have made a timeline for when to stop the production and sales of traditional fuel cars,” said Xin Guobin, vice minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, who was quoted by Chinese state media at an auto industry event in the northern coastal city of Tianjin in 2017. Here, Xin was likely referencing the United Kingdom and France, which have announced they will ban new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2040.
“The ministry has also started relevant research and will make such a timeline with relevant departments. Those measures will certainly bring profound changes for our car industry’s development,” said Xin.
Xin’s remarks came on the back of China announcing a goal of capping carbon emmissions by 2030.
This beggars a further question; “Why are we in Port Elizabeth not taking the lead and joining hands with BAIC to bring their mature electric car technology and proven models to be manufactured right here?”
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