News about China and cars isn't in short supply these days. With several of the world's largest cities, millions of cars on the road and huge problems with air pollution, it's no wonder that the nation is trying to make some changes. Along with decommissioning many of its aging vehicles, China is also expected to see huge growth in its electric vehicle market. BMW, as other automakers already have done, sees this as an opportunity to sell more cars.
"We expect that the Chinese car market for electromobility will become the largest markets for those cars in a few years," says Karsten Engel, BMW's China head. BMW is collaborating with Shanghai's State Grid municipal power company to put public EV charging points at the former World Expo site, and the city plans to create 45 more by the end of the year. These will charge many different vehicles made by BMW and other brands. Tesla, which began delivering its Model S to China last month, plans to build its own supercharger network for the country.
BMW plans to begin selling the battery-powered i3 and i8 plug-in hybrid in China this fall. BMW hopes to sell more than 400,000 vehicles in China this year. Fewer than 1,000 of those will be the i3, though, says Engel, due to a lack of supply.
So far, China is falling drastically behind its own targets to get EVs on the road. With a goal of 500,000 by 2015, fewer than 70,000 EVs are currently operating in China. This numbers gap doesn't necessarily mean that the demand is or isn't there yet, but more and more automakers are betting it will be, and soon. Volkswagen is planning a fleet of electrified models for China by 2018 (at least 15 models according to Bloomberg). Daimler is teaming up with China's BYD to build EVs (and, of course, Your Dreams). Other Chinese companies are getting into the game as well.