Business Management

Forget Apple vs. Uber: Electric cars from China will be the real economic disruptor

Potentially as disruptive as the mobile phone. Certainly more important than driverless vehicles. Yet few in the West appear to realise just how critical China’s push toward electric vehicles could be for the global economy.


According to the International Energy Agency, in 2016 the world’s stock of electric light-duty passenger vehicles for the first time surpassed two million. That amounted to just 0.2 per cent of the total light-duty passenger vehicles moving around the planet.

Clearly the electric vehicles industry is still a young one, even if a bullish UBS forecast gives them a full 14 per cent penetration of the global market for vehicles in 2025. Just as clearly, however, China will play a major role – perhaps the major role – in the future development of electric road transport.

In 2016, China for the first time ran more electric cars than America – 649,000 against 564,000. That year, too, Chinese motorists bought about 257,000 all-electric cars and 79,000 petrol-electric hybrids: double the total sold in the US, and more than 40 per cent of all the 750,000 fully or partly electric cars sold around the world. Then, in April 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued guidance: it now wants no fewer than two million electric cars on China’s roads by 2020, and more than seven million by 2025.

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James Woudhuysen

James Woudhuysen is Visiting Professor at London South Bank University. A physics graduate, he helped install the UK's first computer-controlled car park in 1968.

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