China Puts Its Electric Vehicles on Center Stage WSJ com

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Updated April 22, 2009 11:59 p.m. ET

SHANGHAI — Chinese auto makers are unveiling a slew of battery-powered cars and other energy-efficient vehicles at this week’s auto show here that could make them more globally competitive and eventually help address the air pollution that chokes many Chinese cities.

Alternative-fuel cars were some of the hottest items on display at the Shanghai auto show from homegrown companies like Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. 0175.HK -1.45% Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. Hong Kong $ 2.72 -0.04 -1.45% March 10, 2014 4:01 pm Volume. 104.32M P/E Ratio 7.46 Market Cap $24.29 Billion Dividend Yield 1.43% Rev. per Employee $1,900,590 02/13/14 China Vehicle Sales Rose 6.4%. 01/24/14 Volvo and Geely Develop a Subc.

More quote details and news 0175.HK in Your Value Your Change Short position. Brilliance Jinbei Automobile Co. and Chery Automobile Co.

Some of the new and updated models, such as a battery-powered version of Geely’s Panda hatchback, may hit the market as early as October, and in some cases they might carry price tags low enough for farmers and other rural residents with limited financial means.

A model poses next to a new BYD e6 electric vehicle at the Shanghai International Auto Show. Associated Press

The aggressive plans illustrate China’s growing commitment to electrified vehicles and its strategy to support auto makers developing various types of electric cars and components with research subsidies. The government sees environmental upsides and a chance for its car makers to gain ground on foreign rivals, since electric vehicles are simpler to engineer than gasoline-engine ones.

Electric vehicles are definitely affordable and environmentally friendly technology, and we think there’s a huge potential market in China for them, Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman, said in an interview Monday.

Making electric vehicles affordable will be critical for them to have an impact on the environment, as vehicle ownership continues to rise quickly. The hundreds of thousands of new cars being added every year to roads in China could further damage already shaky air quality if they are oil-based vehicles.

The battery-powered cars that Chinese companies are showing are intended to be much less expensive than those planned by big foreign companies. Great Wall Motor Co. 2333.HK +0.46% Great Wall Motor Co.

Ltd. Hong Kong $ 32.90 +0.15 +0.46% March 10, 2014 4:01 pm Volume. 13.51M P/E Ratio 9.94 Market Cap $112.26 Billion Dividend Yield 2.16% Rev. per Employee $1,229,150 02/25/14 Great Wall Motor Postpones Pla. 02/13/14 China Vehicle Sales Rose 6.4%. More quote details and news 2333.HK in Your Value Your Change Short position. based in northern China’s Hebei province, on Monday unveiled its planned GWKulla all-electric car, which will likely be one of China’s cheapest battery-powered cars when it hits showrooms as early as next year.

Its expected price tag is between 60,000 yuan and 70,000 yuan, or about $8,780 to $10,250. The GWKulla, a short, curvy compact, runs on lithium-ion batteries and can go 160 kilometers (99 miles) when fully charged, the company says.

Chery showed a tiny battery car, the Riichi M1, that boasts similar technology and performance, and is likely to be priced under 100,000 yuan. Geely’s Panda, which Geely executive Frank Zhao said the company plans to launch in China as early as October, will be similarly priced.

Those prices are much lower than that of General Motors Corp. s gm -1.59% General Motors Co. U.S. NYSE $ 37.09 -0.60 -1.59% March 10, 2014 4:00 pm Volume (Delayed 15m). 17.51M AFTER HOURS $ 37.01 -0.08 -0.22% March 10, 2014 7:59 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 43,332 P/E Ratio 9.52 Market Cap $59.92 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $709,712 03/10/14 GM Taps Former Lehman Investig.

03/09/14 William Clay Ford, Grandson of. 03/07/14 Cobalt Recall Claims Face Lega. More quote details and news gm in Your Value Your Change Short position Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which is expected to sell for $40,000 when it goes on sales in the U.S. in late 2010.

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GM plans to launch the Volt in China in 2011.

Chinese auto makers also showed other types of new energy vehicles, including regular gasoline-electric hybrids to compete with Toyota Motor Corp. s tm -0.54% Toyota Motor Corp. ADS U.S. NYSE $ 113.34 -0.62 -0.54% March 10, 2014 4:03 pm Volume (Delayed 15m). 235,000 AFTER HOURS $ 113.08 -0.26 -0.23% March 10, 2014 5:27 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 510 P/E Ratio 9.61 Market Cap $196.52 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $764,041 02/06/14 Toyota Looks to Boost Exports.

More quote details and news tm in Your Value Your Change Short position Prius hybrid. Among the most notable: a gas-electric hybrid Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. plans to launch by the end of next year.

China’s technologies for electric vehicles, especially batteries, are still lagging behind in some important ways. And while many of the cars being shown this week in Shanghai are touted as cutting edge by their producers, it remains unclear how well they will perform — and how Chinese consumers will react to such new energy cars.

In early testing, reviewers said a plug-in electric hybrid sedan from China’s BYD Co. -0.09% BYD Co. Ltd. Hong Kong $ 54.45 -0.05 -0.09% March 10, 2014 4:01 pm Volume. 10.72M P/E Ratio 195.37 Market Cap $153.96 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $386,610 02/27/14 BYD Profit Gains on Vehicles S. 01/15/14 Chinese Auto Maker BYD Eyes $1.

More quote details and news in Your Value Your Change Short position launched late last year had some kinks. The car, called the F3DM, was launched at least a year ahead of a similar car planned by Toyota. But the gasoline engine in the BYD rattled and could be noisy when it kicked in, the reviewers said.

The steering wheel also tends to get stiff when making turns because of the car’s increased weight from the batteries. BYD has said it is aware of these issues and is working resolve them.

From what we have seen so far, [Chinese electric vehicle] technology is not that advanced in terms of things like battery life, driving range and recharging, said Nick Reilly, head of GM Asia-Pacific operations, on Monday. However, they have pretty good cost, and we know the Chinese government and these Chinese companies are investing a lot of money in battery technology, so I think it would be foolish of us to ignore them and believe that we are that far ahead.

Some regulatory and market characteristics make China one of the most promising markets to experiment with electric cars. The government’s regulations and policies for things like building electric-car charging stations can be changed more easily here than in places like the U.S. Most Chinese buyers also are purchasing cars for the first time and have not developed particular preferences.

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