As Cars Go Electric, China Builds a Big Lead in Factories

As Cars Go Electric, China Builds a Big Lead in Factories

As Cars Go Electric, China Builds a Big Lead in Factories Photo

Fueled with money from Wall Street and local officials, automakers plan to build eight million electric cars a year there, more than Europe and North America combined.

ZHAOQING, China — Xpeng Motors, a Chinese electric car start-up, recently opened a large assembly plant in southeastern China and is building a matching factory nearby. It has announced plans for a third.

Zhejiang Geely, owner of Volvo, showed off an enormous new electric car factory in eastern China last month rivaling in size some of the world’s largest assembly plants. Evergrande, a troubled Chinese real estate giant, has just built electric car factories in the cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou and hopes to be making almost as many fully electric cars by 2025 as all of North America.

China is erecting factories for electric cars almost as fast as the rest of the world combined. Chinese manufacturers are using the billions they have raised from international investors and sympathetic local leaders to beat established carmakers to the market.

Success is far from assured. The players include start-ups, electronics manufacturers and other car industry rookies. They are betting that drivers in China and beyond will be willing to spend $40,000 or more for brands that they had never heard of.

“We have the will, and we have the patience,” said He Xiaopeng, the chairman and chief executive of Xpeng, in an interview. “I think we will find it very challenging, but we must also move forward.”

The Chinese industry has momentum. China will be making over eight million electric cars a year by 2028, estimates LMC Automotive, a global data firm, compared with one million last year. Europe is on track to make 5.7 million fully electric cars by then.

General Motors and other North American automakers have plans to catch up. In April, President Biden called for the United States to step up its electric vehicle efforts. During a virtual visit to an electric bus factory in South Carolina, he warned, “Right now, we’re running way behind China.”

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