Shanghai’s program to promote EVs, carried out with much fanfare in the past two years, has achieved little success. At a press conference held on June 7, the municipal government disclosed that private consumers had bought only 269 pure-electric cars, of which 121 went directly to individuals, 148 to vehicle-leasing companies.
One of the pilot cities in China effort to popularize green mobility, Shanghai worked on several fronts to stimulate public interest in electric cars–building charging facilities, running demonstration fleets, helping set up EV-leasing companies, and offering generous subsidies to EV makers and consumers. In late last year, it was announced that on top of the 54,000-Yuan rebate from the central government, the city would pay 40,000 Yuan (to the EV-maker) for each pure-electric car sold to private consumers (30,000 Yuan for a plug-in hybrid). To include incentives from car companies, the subsidies add up to 100,000 Yuan per vehicle (In the Jiading district, the government will pay for the electricity used for charging EVs with a limit of 15,000 Yuan per vehicle as generated within a two-year period).
Intending to make the deal irresistible, the city also grants free Shanghai car plates to EV buyers, while local registration of a new vehicle of the traditional type costs over 70,000 Yuan recently–a price set monthly through a bidding process.
All these incentives apparently failed to spark sales. In a city that issues 8,000 new car plates in a typical month, 265 EVs form a barely visible presence and a large symbol of failed policies. Still the number may be inflated and not reflect the true extent of public rejection of EVs. As we have learned, most of the people who did buy or lease an EV worked directly for the city’s green car programs or companies. Truly "non-interested" consumers are very hard to find.
The biggest factor holding back the popularization of EVs remains lack of convenient charging facilities. The strong supportive measures have not made charging easy for ordinary residents, the majority of which do not have their own parking lots, let alone garages, to set up a charging post. In the city of over 20 million people, the entire plug-in vehicle fleet relies largely on just 12 public stations to get re-fueled.
Two SAIC Roewe E50s for leasing in Shanghai
What’s more, Shanghai has so far limited subsidies to just a few models from three companies: SAIC (Roewe E50), Lifan (F7002 EV, LF7002C EV), and Chery (QQ EV), partly to protect local carmakers against foreign rivals. All these cars have relatively low list prices and short driving ranges. More capable models such as Nissan Leaf, BYD e6, and Chevrolet Volt are unfairly excluded from the incentives.