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China Daily Global / 2021-04 / 08 / Page016

Tough decisions on road to electric dream

By Owen Fishwick | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-08 00:00

Despite the comprehensive public transport network and infinite number of taxis and private hire cars in Beijing, there comes a point when having your own car is just the best option-grocery shopping, for instance. Nobody enjoys lugging their "bags for life" onto a public bus after the weekly shop.

Now I know technophiles will argue that the weekly shop can be ordered easily via apps nowadays and delivered to your door in a jiffy. But sometimes it's just nice to do it in person, caressing the fresh produce and driving the trolley up and down the aisles. Besides, when it comes to picking up the kids from school-the car wins every time.

And with that in mind, having been nudged to look into the auto market on the back of a nudge about when children may come along from my partner, I'm forced to survey the modern landscape. And it is electric.

I quickly learn that no country has embraced the electric revolution with such scale and determination-than China. The government has been so generous with subsidies for EVs, that in recent years it has had to pull them back to ensure only the highest-quality vehicles make it onto the road. Already, there are nearly 5 million electric vehicles on China's roads, more than in any other country.

Last year, Shenzhen became the first city on the planet to have its entire fleet of public buses electric. The city, home of one of the world's largest electric carmakers, BYD, has 16,000 electric buses and some 22,000 electric taxis.

Other countries are catching up too. Last year, despite the shock-waves of the pandemic, Europe overtook China in electric car sales for the first time with 42 percent of global sales to China's 41 percent, according to researcher Canalys. At the moment, the United States, despite being home to Tesla, lags significantly behind both China and Europe in EV sales. But, rising global electric vehicle sales are as inevitable as the wind and the rain.

Virtually every car manufacturer out there is offering electric models and so the choice is dizzying. From your Teslas to your BYDs, there is an EV for everyone. But hang on, not so fast. What are the costs? How far are the ranges? How long do they take to charge? And where can I charge them?

The answers to these questions are much more difficult, with the quick answers being: Variable. Variable. Variable and variable. It's a minefield out there. The problem with electric vehicles is that they are developing at such a pace that by the time you've bought a model today, a new technology or advancement has just been discovered or introduced, making your recent purchase a potential dinosaur. And for the interminable procrastinator, this can make taking the plunge into electric very difficult indeed.

Do I fork out almost 400,000 yuan ($61,004) for a Tesla Model Y, or do I go the other way and get a Wuling Hong Guang MINI for as little as 28,000 yuan? Do I buy a vehicle from one of China's many EV startups, like Nio and Xpeng, which have driven the stock market crazy, but could be a risk compared to going with more traditional brands like Volkswagen or Mercedes?

It's enough to drive you to despair.

EVs are great. They are the future. But for the terminally indecisive such as myself, I'll be with my bags for life on the bus.


Owen Fishwick



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