Car giant Volkswagen announced Tuesday (24 April) investments of €15 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles in China by 2022. In Europe, meanwhile, carmakers are resisting plans for a mass-scale roll-out of electric vehicles.
“China is our second home,” recently-installed chief executive Herbert Diess said at a Beijing press conference, with its market set to be “the biggest” worldwide for electric cars.
He added that the cash – to come from both Volkswagen and local joint-venture partners – would “make mobility cleaner, safer and more intelligent to really improve people’s lives”.
By 2021, the world’s largest carmaker aims to produce battery-powered cars in “at least six factories in China”, Diess said.
The VW chief also announced a new joint venture with Chinese firm Anhui Jianghuai Automobile (JAC) to launch a new car brand, SOL, which will offer an electric SUV with a range of “more than 300 kilometres” on a single charge.
Accounting for some 28.9 million car sales last year, the Chinese car market could soon match those of the European Union and United States combined.
China has heavily invested in electric mobility to solve its own air quality problem and is now increasingly pushing into the next generation mobility market in Europe.
VW, which said it would set up a business unit devoted entirely to China in a recently-announced restructuring, plans to release some 40 new models there in the coming eight years.
Europe, meanwhile, appears to be lagging behind, with carmakers there resisting proposed EU targets on CO2 emissions that would effectively mandate rolling out electric vehicles on a mass scale by 2030.
The EU Commissioner in charge of Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, has fought back accusations that Brussels lacked ambition in setting new CO2 limits on cars for 2030, saying the proposal “strikes the right balance” between environmental, social and industrial policy objectives.
Dieselgate’s long shadow
Diess’ trip to the Beijing Auto Show, which opens Wednesday, is his first foreign visit since replacing former CEO Matthias Mueller, the crisis firefighter brought in after the “dieselgate” scandal broke in 2015.
During his tenure, Mueller launched a massive reorientation of the mammoth group and its 12 brands towards electric-drive vehicles and digitally-connected and autonomous driving.
But VW has yet to escape the shadow of its admission to cheating on regulatory emissions tests for 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.
European car manufacturers have dismissed EU plans to mandate a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from cars by 2030.
Erik Jonnaert, the secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), said “at least half” of the reduction will have to come from electric vehicles – whether battery electric, plug-in hybrids or fuel cells.
But he says the proposed targets are “too aggressive” and urged lawmakers to “to come up with realistic figures, taking into account market realities”.