China is one of the epicenters of the electromobility revolution, and a new proposal could make it much more so, while also giving a boost to American EV-makers such as Tesla. Currently, foreign automakers are allowed to produce vehicles in the country only through a joint venture with a local partner. Now China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce are proposing to relax those laws for makers of “new energy vehicles.”
The details of the new policy are not yet clear. Some reports only mentioned battery manufacturers, while others say the new rules will apply both to makers of batteries and complete automobiles. While global automakers are surely licking their chops at the prospect of more access to the world’s largest market, we’ll have to wait for more particulars before we know which companies will benefit most. Toyota is the king of hybrids, whereas Mitsubishi, Porsche and others make PHEV versions of the SUVs that Chinese buyers love (and probably seldom plug in).
One clear winner is Tesla, which is already selling EVs in China – perhaps as many as 10,000 this year – and is keen to build a local manufacturing plant. Earlier this year, Elon Musk said that Tesla planned to choose a location and a local partner by the middle of 2017. We haven’t heard anything since, so it may be that the company is waiting for the new rules to take effect before making its move.