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Coda electric sedan - Click above for high-res image gallery

"Our goal is not to build a car company," says Better Place CEO Shai Agassi, "Our goal is to end oil." That would be quite an accomplishment, and it's going to take cooperation between the automakers themselves, companies like Better Place that are building and developing an electric vehicle infrastructure and the localities installing them. Oh, and people who drive the cars. According to Agassi, once China gets on the EV train, there's no stopping it.

"Once China does it, you don't have a choice," Agassi said, speaking at WIRED's recent Disruptive by Design Conference. There seem to be definite signs that China will soon become a major player in the electric car marketplace. Here in the U.S., California EV start-up Coda Automotive signed a deal with Chinese automaker Hafei to produce the bones of its electric sedan (pictured) and Volkswagen has teamed up with BYD to produce large-scale batteries for automotive use.

With all of this in mind, what role do you think China will play in the future of electric vehicles? Take part in our poll below.

What role will China play in the future of electric cars?
China will have a role, but it will be small. 193 (18.2%)
China will become one of the largest electric car producers. 603 (56.8%)
Hold on tight, folks -- China will become synonomous with electric cars. 265 (25.0%)


[Source: Wired]
Photos Copyright ©2009 Mike Levine


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 19 Comments
      • 6 Months Ago
      Whether or not they become big EV producers, they will likely be the biggest producer of EV batteries because they can build them so cheaply (cheap labor, lax worker safety standards, lax standards for dumping toxic waste products)... of course with their quality control and corner cutting it could mean a lot of EV fires like the Sony laptop battery fiasco. =)
      • 6 Months Ago
      They will play a role but Chinese car companies have always been plagued by poor quality. Not to mention lack of safety and zero pollution standards. I doubt anything will change, except the cars won't be polluting, the battery plants will.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "If they don't go electric they will never be able to fuel all the vehicles they need."

      But will they fuel all of the electric vehicles with coal...
        • 6 Months Ago
        Highly likely at first. No reason they can't move to some other energy source though. NIMBY doesn't matter in China, so nuclear isn't out of the question. Plus they just built the largest hydro power facility in the world, the Three Gorges Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant. That's actually one of the nice things about NOT being a democracy; if the guy in charge says do it, it gets done.
        • 6 Months Ago
        China has one of the most ambitious nuclear programs in the world, they're building nuke plants like mad, and doing a lot of research into generation IV reactors.
      IamXD
      • 6 Years Ago
      No doubt they will be major players, but at what cost?

      We get lethal baby and pet products, are we ready to accept the risk of Chinese cars?

      China has dreadful quality control. All the reviews of the Coda car say that the quality is way below average even by sub-compact standards. (Not to mention the worst looking design) To fix it, they are going to have to completely overhaul Chinese manufacturing practices...

      I'm not convinced that we will ever see true high quality products come out of China. The reason manufacturing goes to China is cost. Quality control and qualtiy materials cost money. To get quality workers, you have to take care of them which China definitely doesn't...
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        That's fair.

        There's nothing wrong with demanding quality from the manufacturers of the products you buy. If you're specifically avoiding products from China because the majority of the ones you've used have lacked quality, it makes sense. If you were complaining but still using Chinese products, I'd say that would be pretty hypocritical.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        China overall has poor quality control, but there are some very high quality products made there such as Stanley tools. People forget that Japanese tools and cars used to be a joke. I'm not saying that the Coda will have good quality control, but China eventually will (so long as people are willing to pay more for things that actually work).
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        I've notice the stuff that now comes from China. Look at the junk in Home Depot's Plumbing section. I now show ONLY at a real Plumber supply store.

        Sears sold me a Chinese Refrigerator. Not only will I not buy from Sears, I won't buy any new appliances until the old one's fall apart and cannot be fixed.

        China seems to have a Culture of Cheating on every contract, on every component. Until they turn that around I'd rather buy nothing.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        No offense guys, but do you realize how much stuff we use comes from China? Or how much stuff from China there is in the cars we use (no matter what manufacturer they're from)?

        And that's the stuff we don't complain about. Just saying.
        IamXD
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        I agree that we use a lot of stuff from China day to day and I took a quick look around my house at various items and came to a what I will admit is a "gross generalization." It's an opinion.

        ON AVERAGE I would say that the high tech equipment that I own is made in Japan, Korea or Taiwan. This is stuff that works day in a day out without fail.

        Some cheaper electronics, like my router, is made in China... As for my router, I'm on my third one and this one now needs rebooting once a week.

        My quality furniture is made in the US. My cheap bed bath and beyond chairs, that barely fit together, are made in China.

        My point is this. Commodity products come from China, not high quality, not reliable and a very limited life span. Toasters, power suppies for electronics, etc...

        I want a car that works day in a day out, not a car like my router.

        How long has your Chinese toaster lasted? Think about a Chinese car two or three years down the road. Once rust and decay has impacted the frame, do you really think that it will be very safe? Would you put your family in it?

        Yes, maybe one day China will become a source of high quality goods, but cost naturally goes up with quality. The Coda car, and I've read the reviews, is like my toaster. Low quality. Unfortunately the premium on electric cars drives the price to $45k... Seriously? I'll wait for a quality electric from Honda or Toyota.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I find all this talk about the low quality of Chinese products a bit amusing. It reminds me of the scene in "Back to the Future" where Doc says something to the effect of... no wonder this thing didn't work... it's made in Japan!... to which Michael J Fox/Marty McFly responds "what do you mean Doc? All the best stuff comes from Japan."

      Japanese made stuff used to suck... they had poor quality control, but manufacturing thrived there due to low labor costs. After awhile, the quality got way better, but at the same time the labor costs started climbing along with the quality. A bit later on, manufacturing moved to South Korea, and guess what, the quality was low, but so was the price. The first Hyundais weren't exactly known for their high quality... but as time went on, the quality has continued to improve... (1st to introduce the 60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper and 100,000 mile powertrain warranty as you might recall)

      The same thing is bound to happen in China. The early cars coming out of there are going to be low quality, but cheap. As time goes on however, the quality is bound to improve (andl the prices will increase, most likely), until a new lower manufacturing cost country will be found. Kids born today will probably be saying someday "China? All the best stuff comes from there!"

        • 6 Months Ago
        Good point, but it does take time to improve quality, and the bigger the organization, the more bureucratic inertia there is, resisting the changes needed to improve quality. Maybe in about 30 years...
        • 6 Months Ago
        It hasn't happened yet.
      • 6 Months Ago
      The Chinese market will not be that important for electric vehicle businesses at least in the near term. EVs are, and will be for a while, expensive premium products. Consequently the move to electric transportation will be spearheaded by densely populated countries with high income and abundant cheap electricity. That means Europe, Japan and South Korea, North America, Australia and NZ.

      BTW, why do people seem to focus solely on China as the next big thing?
      If I had to choose, I'd rather invest in India where you're not as likely to be ripped off by your business partners, plus it's actually a democracy. Russia offers good business opportunities, too.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Petro cars in China cost three times as much as they do in the US, because of insane environmental taxes. Alternative fuel vehicles are much cheaper in China because they are subsidized.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Why won't they be "that important"? One of their biggest automakers is pursuing it and they are pretty far advanced with lithium battery tech. If they start mass producing batteries and the cost goes down....why wouldn't other automakers jump in? The imev and the Ford Focus EV are going to be two the first production EVs to hit the market and they are definitely not "expensive premium products". You don't seem to have anything to say except for some petty bigoted comments.
      • 6 Years Ago
      China has huge lithium reserves, a huge market for EVs, and the manufacturing capacity to supply both in mass quantities to bring down cost, so its inevitable that once they seriously start pushing EVs they'll be a leader. Then they'll do what they do best (export everything), so this Shai might be right.
      • 6 Years Ago
      There is no doubt they will become ONE OF the largest electric car producers in the world. Look at the size of their population, and their rising demand for automobiles. If they don't go electric they will never be able to fuel all the vehicles they need. Hopefully the US and the EU can build on experience and design something better, though. National pride at stake here guys, come on GM/Ford/Chrysler... get it together.
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