Will America lose the "electric car race" to China?

Recently, I wrote that the Zap-X could be "months" away from mass production. No one shared my enthusiasm because the estimate included an indeterminately long "testing" period. I contacted Zap and they said the "situation is evolving very quickly because Youngman is already a very large manufacturing company with plans to move into automobiles" unlike, say, Tesla. Zap says the "ZAP-X is on the agenda" but "timetable projections will not be confirmed until the JV (joint venture) business plans between ZAP and Youngman have been further developed."
What was I thinking? The ink on the Zap-Youngman contract is still wet. Zap just showed the car images for the first time this year. The safety testing required for American cars could easily push the release to late 2008, early 2009... in America! I found an interesting interview with the CEO of Zap, Steve Schneider, where he says Zap will develop "electric vehicles for sale in China, and the Middle East, and South America, and here in the United States." Youngman is in China so "it gives us (Zap) the China market, of course" said the CEO.

This opens up an interesting possibility: What if affordable, normal, electric cars are commonplace in China before the US? Four things could keep Zap-X from premiering on China's streets. First, could the Chinese afford the Zap-X? The Cleantech article says "with volume manufacturing, Schneider said ZAP's target is to not have any passenger vehicle over $30,000." Two, can Youngman make enough cars? Youngman expects a capacity of 200,000 vehicles in 2008 and 300,000 in 2009. Three, what about safety tests for China? I don't mean to insult the great nation of China but from what I see in the headlines and Congressional hearings; IMHO quality testing won't cause a big delay there. Four, what if Zap just does not want to release in China first? I asked them but have not received a response yet.

I could see why Zap might be concerned. I know if I saw affordable, good looking, four door sedans driving around the streets of China for under $30,000, for a whole year while it went through testing in America, I might start to look into the electric car grey market. This is all very hypothetical, but do you think seeing the Zap-X crowding the streets of China could be a Sputnik-like moment for China-US relations? Do you think America should be embarrassed if it loses the "electric-car race" to China or another country?

[Source: Cleantech]

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