BMW Predicts China as Biggest Electric Car Market by 2019

May 28, 2014 12:54 pm ET

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Bayerische Motoren Werke AG predicts China will become the world’s largest market for electric vehicles as more charging infrastructure is built and the government promotes cleaner cars to cut pollution.

China will reach that target in at most five years, said Karsten Engel, BMW’s China head, at an event in Shanghai yesterday marking the automaker’s collaboration with the city’s municipal power company. As part of the partnership, the State Grid will build public charging points at the former World Expo site, one of 46 such areas the city is targeting by the end of the year where EV owners can power their cars, according to Fan Ye, general manager of electric vehicles at State Grid Shanghai.

“We expect that the Chinese car market for electro- mobility will become the largest markets for those cars in a few years,” Engel told reporters after a ceremony in Shanghai yesterday. “Because you have supply now, there are cars coming on the market. We are coming with ours, others are coming as well.”

BMW joins Volkswagen AG among automakers betting on alternative-energy vehicles to fuel future growth in the world’s largest auto market. VW plans to unveil more than 15 electrified models in China by 2018, Daimler AG is building electric vehicles with Chinese automaker BYD Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. delivered its first Model S cars in the country last month.

The public charging points at the former Expo site in Shanghai will be compatible with EVs made by BMW and other brands, including BYD and SAIC Motor Corp., though not for Tesla’s cars, according to Fan. Tesla has said it plans to install a large supercharger network in China.

China Sales

BMW expects to start selling its i3 in China in September, offering the model and the i8 in seven dealerships, Engel said. BMW will probably sell fewer than 1,000 units of the i3 this year in China because of a lack of supply, he said.

The Munich-based company will be “happy” to sell more than 400,000 cars in total in China this year, he said. The market will slow for the rest of the year after expanding faster than anticipated in the first four months, he said.

Five years after China began promoting new-energy vehicles, fewer than 70,000 are on its roads, lagging behind the central government’s target of reaching 500,000 by 2015.