Electric vehicles are gaining momentum - and China could be next

Electric Vehicles in China

Vehicles / April 26, 2023

The Ford Motor Co. display at this year's Shanghai auto show, which goes on until April 28, is filled with SUVs and electric hybrid vehicles. The U.S. automaker has announced it will electrify 70 percent of its vehicles in China by 2025. This comes as Beijing is calling on automakers to sell more electric vehicles. Rob Schmitz/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Rob Schmitz/NPR

The Ford Motor Co. display at this year's Shanghai auto show, which goes on until April 28, is filled with SUVs and electric hybrid vehicles. The U.S. automaker has announced it will electrify 70 percent of its vehicles in China by 2025. This comes as Beijing is calling on automakers to sell more electric vehicles.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

President Trump may not talk much about electric vehicles, but there's another American — with better name recognition in China — who does.

The voice of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, popular in China for his role in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, graces the showroom of Auto Shanghai, the city's biennial automotive expo, accompanied by images beamed on a circular wall showing Beijing covered in smog and children wearing pollution masks.

"Let us reconnect with nature, fill our lungs with clean air instead of pollution, let us see beauty more clearly, " says DiCaprio in a commercial that's part of a display for an electric vehicle made by Chinese automaker BYD. "With new energy, we can see this future. Now let's make it ours."

The message is repeated by automakers throughout the showroom at this year's exhibition.

"China's been pushing very aggressively to move to a greater mix of electrified vehicles, " says Trevor Worthington, vice president of product development at Ford Motor Co. in Shanghai.

The U.S. automaker, which sold 1.3 million cars in China last year, has announced it will electrify 70 percent of its vehicles in China by 2025. This comes as Beijing is calling on auto manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles to reduce vehicle emissions, as well as China's dependence on foreign oil.

By early next year, Beijing will require automakers in China to ensure that at least 8 percent of all vehicles they manufacture are electric. The country had more than 1 million electric vehicles in 2016 — an 87 percent increase over the previous year. Vehicles range in price from $6, 000 to $200, 000 (for the most expensive Tesla model).

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