Tesla motors closer to Europe as cheap imports flood in

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For a number of reasons, China has emerged as the world’s dominant market for electric vehicles. In May, the automaker said that Chinese buyers had already signed up for more than 4m plug-in electric cars – the largest number of electric cars in the world – and one state-owned car company now owns 90% of all new energy vehicles on the road. In response, leading automakers from the US and Europe are currently gearing up to launch their own electric vehicle plans.

While it’s impossible to put an exact figure on how many electric vehicles will end up in the European market, research from market research specialists Frost & Sullivan suggests the standard fare will probably total less than 5% of the continent’s total market in 2023. Most of that will come from direct sales to government-sponsored car companies in China and the European Union. Some of that is also likely to be supplied to regions in Asia-Pacific, though total European sales of all electric vehicles will likely take a back seat in that region.

That’s partly because electric vehicles’ widespread deployment in China will just ramp up in the coming years. Although the country’s state-owned vehicle makers have already begun selling battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars, they will be gradually deployed in major cities – which tend to be more rich and energetic – as well as in rural areas where shortages of chargeable electric infrastructure already exist.

“It may not take the time of another decade before China’s massive car market catches up to the size of US and European vehicle markets,” notes Frost & Sullivan. While that’s discouraging for European automakers, it means there could be opportunities for China’s domestic players to step up into the leadership role.

However, that doesn’t mean that all is lost for current leaders in the market. “It is in fact a good opportunity for the traditional automakers to dip their toes into the electrification market while prices for the technology drop and government incentives support public purchases of the vehicles,” the research firm observes. That could trigger a technology shift in carmakers’ behaviours. “Rather than focus on simply trying to sell electric vehicles to customers as quickly as possible, automakers are now facing the hard decision of whether to integrate EV technology into other products already produced and sold in their lineups.”

However, foreign automakers have also started to extend the range of their existing conventional vehicles to enable them to become better EV competitors. “Some of the biggest foreign players, both old and new, have already announced plans to increase their electric fleets,” notes Frost & Sullivan. For example, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars will launch its first electric vehicle in 2020 and the US maker has pledged to sell at least half of its cars in the US by 2023.

One reason that cars are easier to fit with electric drivetrains than cars are with hybrids or plug-in hybrids is because electric motors are incredibly quiet and efficient; unlike other powertrains, this power source delivers only a buzz or a thump, not a roaring drive. However, hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer more range and better results in less-fragile environments.

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