While the current trend stateside seems to favor hybrids over electric vehicles, the same does not appear to be true in what will soon become the world's largest market for EVs: China.
Last year, Chinese consumers purchased twice as many electric vehicles as hybrid cars. Thanks to a culture already familiar with electric bikes and scooters, a massive pollution problem, and large government incentives to encourage zero-emissions vehicle production, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the leader in electric cars within the next 10 years. The cultural shift from gasoline to electric is not expected to be as significant in China as it is for Americans, so choosing an all-electric vehicle over a hybrid may not be as difficult a choice. By 2017, according to Pike Research, China is expected to sell 617,000 electric cars, nearly twice the U.S. projection.
But, lest we get carried away with China's embrace of EVs, let's put things in perspective, shall we? Last year, 14.5 million cars were sold in China. Only 5,655 of them were electric vehicles, while 2,713 were hybrids. That hardly qualifies as a mainstream consumer trend. (SmartPlanet's Mark Halper has even written that Chinese consumers are turning away from EVs.)
Compare that 2011 sales figure to the more than 9,000 Nissan Leafs sold in the U.S. in 2011. The Chinese market for EVs may grow in the coming years, but it has a long way to go before it comprises a significant share of the Chinese auto market.