The Good news? China is investing in electric cars, The Bad news? China is investing in electric cars

November 10 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Transportation   Year: 2016   Rating: 5 Hot

Need more evidence that the electric vehicle industry is going global, quickly?!

Bloomberg is reporting on plans that General Motors is expanding its investment and partnership with China’s SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. It is unclear whether this investment is simply to secure GM’s position in China’s growing market, or if GM might tap China as the manufacturing hub for electric vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.

Big bets are being made by automakers and many of them tap Asia as a manufacturing hub for energy storage. Last month GM selected a Korean maker for its Chevy Volt, and VW is now openly seeking Chinese partnerships to produce batteries. Meanwhile Korea and China are looking to build their own homegrown electric vehicle brands.

Why this is important to the future of energy?
The fastest way to move beyond the combustion engine is to tap the power of global markets. But it requires us to rethink our assumptions about the future. Namely, if Asia does leap ahead, the US and Europe will have to rethink their aspirations of being ‘energy independent’. Instead they will trade ‘foreign’ oil, for ‘foreign’ batteries!

The Good news
Electric cars can help to clean up air pollution around the world, expand opportunities for renewables to compete in transportation fuels, and could help us better manage the flow and storage of electrons currently limited to a one-way electrical grid.

Electric vehicles can change the world, but they are likely to do so in ways that we cannot currently imagine by mere extrapolation.

The Bad news?

The bad news is not for the environment, it is for people and regional economies tied to the combustion engine!

The Planet does not ‘lose’ as Asia pushes forward on electric vehicles
First, we cannot get distracted by short-term reality that most electricity comes from coal. It is much easier to control carbon emissions (via carbon eating algae) from a centralized plants than billions of inefficient, carbon emitting vehicles.

Electric motors mean that renewables can finally compete in the transportation fuel market which has been dominated by liquid fuels and a combustion engine.

Electric vehicles using batteries and hydrogen fuel cells also means that regions can tap the electron storage potential of vehicles to reinforce the grid and lower the costs of delivering energy to people via central power plants.

Bad News: Focus on people and regions
The bad news is likely to come to auto maker regions that cannot ‘retool’ quick enough to shed the legacy of the combustion engine in favor of new energy storage systems around batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors.

The world is not going to incrementally improve its way into the ‘post oil’ or ‘post combustion’ engine era. This type of transformational change requires Big leaps and Big bets. (Translation: High risk, high uncertainty)

Now it is time to ask Big Questions…

What if Detroit cannot compete in the age of electric vehicles using the US auto manufacturing base, as the world turns to Asia?

How much money should we invest in improving the combustion engine to get more ‘mile per gallon’ if Asia is moving beyond the whole notion of liquid fuels?

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
Is Detroit falling asleep at the wheel?
New hydrogen storage device lighter than lithium batteries
McKinsey believes China could lead world in electric vehicles
GM pick Korean battery maker
Electric vehicle industry goes global
Hyundai to build fuel cell vehicle
US algae startups could transform China coal industry

Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. Maybe it’s a way of us here in America of getting a service as well as the raw materials? Think of all the steel and aluminum in those cars we could have. And if we started recycling our computers instead of sending them to China, we could build an impressive supply of materials they’d eventually need from us. Okay, so we’re talking about a 50-100 year timeline, but I can wait.

    Posted by: martymcfly   November 11, 2008
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  2. Re: martymcfly No doubt that the US could compete… labor costs are biggest challenge outside of competing against existing supply networks (around batteries)

    I think the challenge for the US / Europe is retooling quick enough. Asia has locked up the manufacturing hub role with investors- and it’s going to be tough to retrain our aging auto workforce. Very complicated!

    And to your materials point—yes, if you thought about building cars differently—we could steal the show. Instead of building cars out of energy-intensive steel, how about plastic reinforced with nanotubes/particles to make stronger composites.

    So - next twenty years, it’s going to be a tough turnaround, but long term yes, it’s always open for new ideas.

    Posted by: Garry Golden   November 11, 2008
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