By Robert Zebney, International Business Writer
Volkswagen, the German automotive giant, is prepping for a massive expansion in its electric car output for next year. The largest production jump will be in China, who recently announced a total ban on sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles to take effect at an unspecified date. Automakers from around the globe see China as a crucial market because of their rapidly expanding access to electric car charging stations and their embrace of fully electric technology.
Global automakers are beginning to see the future of electric vehicles and the future looks to be Chinese. Automakers moving electric vehicle development and production to China presents a huge risk. In the past, China has pressured foreign businesses to exchange their technology for access to the massive market China presents. As a result, China has used this newfound technology to rival those foreign countries. Chinese officials also plan to require large automotive producers to sell their new electric models if they wish to continue selling gasoline powered ones as well.
Even in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, electric vehicles have failed to grab more than 1 percent of the US automobile market. In response, governments have not pushed for more fuel-efficient cars, or lower emission vehicles but rather for fully electric cars with zero emissions. Similar to China, the United Kingdom, and France plan to ban the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040.
Automakers’ response to these upcoming bans is somewhat mixed. Some brands such as Volvo and Smart plan to phase out combustion engines completely within the decade. Others such as Mercedes, Audi, and BMW plan to add only a few electricmodels to their current lineup. Volkswagen, in particular, seems to be making up for its past mistakes regarding emissions. They plan to add eighty models to their lineup across their brands which include Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini.
At this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, spectators saw a large array of electric concepts from a variety of auto brands. Automakers are taking more serious note of Tesla, who currently is one of the only options for long-range electric vehicles. Many of the electric concepts on display pay homage to models of a company’s past. Volkswagen, for example, plans to introduce a refresh of their iconic bus with a twist; it will be fully electric. Also, Honda released an all-electric hatchback reminiscent of their models of the 1980’s.
Currently, electric vehicle options are either very expensive, in the case of Tesla, or the range is far too limited to be practical. Historically, battery packs have been the main problem contributing to these very high price tags. Recently, lithium-ion battery production costs have fallen significantly. This drop in price will eventually reach production cars allowing for long range and prices that will be lower than that of a gasoline equivalents.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.
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