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Electric vehicle maker BYD has called for government subsidies on private purchases of all-electric battery cars and other ‘new energy’ vehicles, saying their widespread adoption in China depends on it, but some government officials see no reason to help well-off ‘early adopter’ buyers into such models.

BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said at a weekend conference a lack of consumer incentives and subsidies has kept the firm from making a plug-in hybrid car available for private buyers. He warned that a continued lack of government assistance might doom all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids because of their current high cost, Dow Jones reported.

“We’re at a critical make-or-break juncture in our effort” to make electric vehicles mainstream, Wang told the conference. To help accelerate an adoption of heavily electrified vehicles “the government needs to play a key role and help us reduce their cost, especially for private buyers.”

Wang called for rebates, tax cuts, and policies to pave the way for more taxi companies to use electric cabs, among other measures.

Battery, car and EV maker BYD, part-owned by a company controlled by American investor Warren Buffett, is gearing up to launch an all-electric battery car called the e6 in China this year. The Shenzhen-based company already sells a plug-in hybrid car here called the F3DM, with a small petrol engine to charge its batteries. BYD began selling the F3DM in December to fleet customers, such as banks, but hasn’t made it available for consumers. Wang has said the delay is because the car, priced at about CNY150,000, or roughly US$22,000, is too expensive for most private buyers in China.

One senior Chinese industrial policy maker told the conference there were reservations among some Chinese officials about providing consumer incentives to spur electric-car sales.

“Why do we need to provide subsidies and rebates for wealthy private buyers who would be the first in line to buy electric cars? That’s a question some of us in the government are asking,” Chen Jianguo, a senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission, was quoted as saying.

But Wan Gang, China’s minister of science and technology, told the conference that electric vehicles provided opportunities for China to “catch up with and exceed developed countries” in the auto industry.

They are a “key driver for a new economy” for the world, but an especially strategic area of interest for China, he said. He pointed to the advantage of large deposits within China of lithium and other rare-earth metals that are needed to produce key electric car components, such as batteries and high-power electric motors, and improve their performance.

New-energy cars are “the way forward” and “a new source of growth” for China, and the country thus stands ready to allot more subsidies to accelerate related research and development activity, he said, according to Dow Jones.