The head of Chinese automaker BYD sees a major plug-in boom on the horizon, but has some definite ideas about the proper roles of PHEVs vis a vis pure EVs. Some would say the party has already started – BYD’s share price has nearly doubled this year, as the company delivered 6,600 units of its new Qin PHEV, and 4,000 electric buses.
“BYD is promoting purely electric buses for public transportation, but plug-in hybrid vehicles for private use, since the latter do not rely on charging stations too much,” BYD CEO Wang Chuanfu told Chinese news outlet Caixin. “It is a mistake to use hybrid vehicles for public transportation. The plug-in hybrid model is designed to account for purely electric cars’ inability to drive long distances. Public buses in cities have no need to drive long distances.”
“The next three years will see a boom in electric vehicles, just like what happened to e-commerce 10 years ago and the internet 20 years ago,” continued Wang. “But what’s different is that in addition to the commercial drive, the development of new-energy cars relies on more government push. In the future, plug-in hybrid cars will account for 70% of private new-energy vehicles, while purely electric cars take up the other 30%. Small batteries with high energy storage for use in automobiles will not be available for around 30 years.”
Compared to the US, China still has few public charging stations, but that may change soon. Last month, a confidential source told Bloomberg that the Chinese government is considering providing as much as 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) in funding to build public charging facilities. The country has already implemented a host of EV-friendly initiatives, waiving various taxes and ordering government departments to buy “new energy” vehicles for official fleets. The government is also considering allowing non-carmakers, such as Wanxiang, the auto-parts maker that owns Fisker, to manufacture EVs.
When it comes to installing charging infrastructure, the government has to take the initiative, said Wang Chuanfu. “It is impossible for the government to build as many charging stations as gas stations. What it can do is build enough charging stations within a certain distance and gradually expand the coverage nationwide. We will only participate in some cities, but cannot in many other cities. We are not even included in the discussions. Every city has a new-energy-vehicle promotion office. Only with their approval can we join the meeting and have the opportunity to get involved in the construction. Cities have promised to reduce local protectionism, but it will take time.”