China, that contradictory land of coal, smog, and renewable energy, may be on the verge of leadership in another green technology sector: electric and hybrid vehicles. The Chinese government announced today a plan to invest up to $15 billion in a state-run venture that will research, develop, and generate standards for upcoming hybrids and EVs. The venture will also put millions of electric cars on the road in the coming years, according to The New York Times.
The news will come as no surprise to anyone who follows the Chinese vehicle market. GM recently teamed up with Chinese state-controlled automaker SAIC to develop fuel-efficient engines and transmissions, for example, and we declared Chinese car company BYD as one of our Most Innovative Companies this year.
Electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place has also placed its chips on China. "We always said we want China to get in on [the battery switch] system because it creates a de facto standard," Better Place CEO Shai Agassi told Fast Company last month. "China going electric decreases the price of EVs for everyone."
It doesn't hurt that Asia has an ever-expanding middle class that is expected to spend $32 trillion by 2030. China has the perfect storm of cash, consumers, and a willful government. It's hard to compete with that—as the U.S. may be about to find out.