Chinese Eager for Electric Cars, Survey Shows

Sixty percent of Chinese who own a car or are planning on buying one would consider buying a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle, according to a new survey (PDF) by the Ernst & Young’s Global Automotive Center.

That percentage is “nearly five times higher than any other country surveyed,” including the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan, according to the accounting firm. In the US, 10 percent of consumers said they would consider a hybrid or EV.

Sixty-five percent of the 1000 Chinese surveyed also indicated a willingness to help pay for public charging stations for such cars.

The result suggest that, when it comes to automobiles, the Chinese may be ready to leap-frog over older technologies, in the same way cellphones have obviated the need for China to build out its telephone infrastructure.

Only about 3 percent of Chinese own a car, by comparison 60 percent of Americans do (and 89 percent of households). As this survey suggests, by the time the gap between those two national statistics closes, the internal combustion engine could be a relic.

Mike Hanley, Ernst & Young’s Global Automotive Leader, said the survey result bode well for the Chinese auto manufacturers planning on introducing plug-in electric vehicles in 2010 and 2011. But the Chinese government has shown some hesitancy, delaying a decision on subsidies for private purchases of EVs, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Chinese consumers are not oblivious to the short-comings of EVs, however. Battery driving range and access to charging stations were noted as areas of concern by respondents. “Range anxiety” has been cited as the number one obstacle to wide-spread adoption of EVs, along with the high cost of batteries.

Just last week, Deloitte Consulting released a study predicting electric vehicles would grab only 2 to 5 percent of the global market by 2020, but that hybrids could garner a 20 percent market share or more by then.

Said Hanley, “even if only a small portion of survey respondents who said they would consider a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle were serious, there would still be more than enough demand to sell out the 2010 and 2011 production runs of the major and new manufacturers, while buying crucial time to build out infrastructure and increase public awareness.”

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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