While western auto manufacturers clamber for entrance into the Chinese EV market, such as US automakers Tesla and Detroit Electric, China’s automakers have begun to draw back on their EV lines, concludes a recent article in Forbes which analyzed the current state of the Chinese EV market. While China may seem like an ideal place to root the first truly widespread EV market, given the country’s rapidly growing urban areas which are struggling with considerable congestion and pollution as is, Chinese consumers have shown little enthusiasm for electric vehicles. The slow sales of EVs in China have puzzled many industry experts who expected Chinese car buyers, many of whom are purchasing their first cars, to make for an ideal target as they had little experience or preconceptions regarding EVs or their differences from traditional gas-fueled cars.

However, despite recording an 11% gain in March over equivalent sales in 2012, sales of electric vehicles have been unimpressive; amounting to a total of 39,800 units, an estimated 80% of which are being used in public transportation. These anemic sales figures have led many of China’s leading auto makers to scale back their initial EV plans, choosing to shift their focus to research and development, focusing on lighter vehicles and less expensive means of achieving carbon reductions, instead of manufacturing and sales. While an understandable readjustment in the face of a market which is still growing, this trend among China’s car companies does little to support the Chinese government’s continued faith in the industry’s future.

While Chinese government officials, such as enthusiastic EV proponent Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang, continue to actively promote the public adoption of electric vehicles both in word and deed, currently in the form of tax subsidies for purchases but future funding is likely to come through research & development support for manufacturers, they too acknowledge that the path to an all-electric future is likely to be rockier and longer than it seemed at first.

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