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China's tragic train crash may change nation's electric vehicle strategy

At least 40 passengers, including two Americans, were killed in a terrible crash of a Chinese bullet train on July 23. The "official" cause of the devastating crash was ruled a lightning strike, though reactions from authorities have raised doubts.

The fatal accident happened on a Saturday evening in China's Zhejiang province. Two bullet trains, speeding down the same line, collided after a lightning strike supposedly disabled one of the train's propulsion system, leaving it dead on the track. To make matters worse, the collision occurred along an elevated section of track, pushing some train sections off a bridge and down to the ground below.

This catastrophe, according to Automotive News China, may forever change China's electric vehicle strategy. In recent times, the Chinese government has encouraged immediate adoption of cutting-edge technologies so that key industrial sectors could leapfrog global rivals. China's rail system was one sector that embraced advanced technologies to build a network where trains fly along at speeds of up to 217 miles per hour.

The crash led Chinese authorities to launch a thorough review of safety in the transportation sector. It's believed that China will ultimately conclude that advanced technologies must undergo better testing prior to implementation. This runs counter to China's immediate-adoption approach and could mean that the use of some technologies (for example, electric vehicles) could be delayed as passing China's stringent testing protocols won't be accomplished without setbacks. Given that China already has other reasons to rethink its plug-in vehicle policy, the tea leaves may be telling us something.

As of right now, it's unclear whether or not a single train crash will forever change China's automotive future, but in the wake of the railway accident, the nation's government seems to have realized that it's too dangerous to blindly trust in technologies developed overseas that haven't been fully tested domestically, even if they do seem to promise leapfrogging ability.

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