Helping drivers make switch to electric cars

Updated: 2011-12-15 09:51

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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GUANGZHOU - Despite a slow increase in the domestic sales of electric cars, Chinese buyers are expected to become more willing to drive these alternative-fuel vehicles in the near future, said an industry insider.

Helping drivers make switch to electric cars

A man charges a BYD Co Ltd electric vehicle in Shenzhen. China is encouraging the development of electric vehicles to promote the use of clean energy, but a geniune increase in sales has yet to come.[Photo/China Daily] 

"With an affordable and sustainable battery switching model and more favorable government policies, it is easier to persuade Chinese buyers to purchase an electric car," said Idan Ofer, board chairman of Better Place, a global provider of battery-switching stations for electric cars.

China has sought to encourage the development of electric vehicles to promote the use of clean energy, but a genuine increase in sales has yet to come. Potential customers have been left cold by the high cost of electric cars, their small driving range and, particularly, the underdeveloped charging infrastructure.

For example, the E6 electric car produced by the Shenzhen-based BYD Automobile Co Ltd, accounts for less than 2 percent of the company's production capacity, company sources said.

"If you analyze the Chinese car market, you'll find that a lot of Chinese buyers are unlike those in Europe," Ofer said.

"Most Chinese are new buyers who don't have a history of car ownership, so they don't know what it is like to drive such a car.

"In the West, most people are not first-time buyers. They have a long history of using gasoline-powered cars. If you tell Chinese buyers what an electric car is and how convenient it is to charge the battery, they will prefer the green car."

Ofer made the comments as Better Place and China Southern Power Grid opened an experimental switchable electric car center in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province.

The center provides a place for drivers of electric cars to swap a depleted battery for a fully charged one. The process takes less than five minutes.

A switchable battery electric car left the center on Monday, marking the southern city as the starting point for an electric vehicle network infrastructure in five southern provinces and regions.

The 1,900-square-meter center is the first fully automated battery switching center in China.

CSG has also signed electric vehicle infrastructure agreements with Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou and other provinces to build 14 charging stations, a step to support the national energy-conservation and low-emission strategy.

"Chinese buyers should be more responsible for the environment in the future and their children by driving green cars," said Ofer.

Better Place is holding discussions with some Chinese automakers including Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd, Beijing Automotive Group and Chery Automobile Co Ltd to produce electric cars that meet the standards for the battery-switching model.

No agreements have been reached yet, Ofer said.

"We will promote the green model of driving in the Chinese market step by step. We believe that the Chinese government will soon issue standards for making electric cars," said Ofer, adding that such vehicles are expected to be put into operation by early 2013.

In China, a number of vehicle makers, including BYD and Chery, have already produced electric cars, but they don't meet the battery switching standards of Better Place.

"Electric cars need battery charging facilities in advance.

"That's why we opened the experimental center, which allows automakers and users to learn more about how a green-energy vehicle will be convenient to drive in the near future," he said.