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Clean Energy Vehicles Are Becoming More Popular in China
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Clean Energy Vehicles Are Becoming More Popular in China

According to a recent report from Nielsen, the world’s leading measurement company, the popularity of clean energy vehicles among Chinese consumers is rising, with 27% of car-buyers willing to consider purchasing Blade Electric Vehicles (BEV), and 25% interested in Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). This is the first time that pro-BEV buyers outnumber those that are pro-PHEV. And it also reflects that policies promoting BEV are taking effect in China.

To help companies know more about the clean energy auto market and its consumers in particular, Nielsen has recently released a report titled “2017 Joint Survey on the Clean Energy Market”.

“As clean energy solutions continue to grow in importance globally, consumers in China are also taking note of the benefits of owning an electric vehicle. Today we’re seeing a massive opportunity emerging for Gas-Electricity Hybrid Vehicles (GEHV) and BEVs are also growing in popularity. We’re seeing that buyer and driver satisfaction levels are not only very high, but are only going to improve,” said Olive Zhang, vice-president of Nielsen China.

BEV Growing in Popularity and Offer High Satisfaction for Consumers

According to the Nielsen report, from 2012 to 2016, the willingness for buying PHEV (from 2% in 2012 to 22% in 2016) was higher than that of BEV (from 1% in 2012 to 14% in 2016). But in 2017, the amount of consumers willing to buy BEV (27%) now outnumbers that of PHEV (25%).

Nielsen’s report shows that 60% of clean energy vehicle buyers search about clean energy vehicles online. About a quarter of consumes even went to see and try test-driving of these clean energy vehicles.

Additionally, buyers’ satisfaction for clean energy vehicles has risen. The overall satisfaction level rose from 4.0 points in 2016 to 4.2 points out of 5 points in 2017. Most high ratings are given by high-end BEV buyers. This also shows that the improvement in clean energy technology gained recognition from consumers.

Buyers of Electric Vehicles Expect an Increase on Battery Life

The report finds that callings for longer battery life is strong particularly among BEV buyers. In 2016, the expected distance is 265km, while the actual distance is only 164km, far below market expectation. Thanks to the improvement in clean energy technology, in 2017, the actual distance raised to 252km, and the expected distance was lifted as well, to 374km. This increase in expected distance will further boost the improvement of clean energy technology.

It is also discovered that if buyers of clean energy vehicles are categorized into two groups, the high-end buyers generally have higher expectations than the mid-range buyers. Taking BEV buyers as an example, the expected distance among mid-end vehicle buyers is 309km, while that for the high-end ones is 462km. What’s more, the expected distance of mid-end vehicle buyers (309km) is very close to the actual distance of their vehicles (314km). This indicates that in the clean energy car market, mid-end vehicles head toward the high-end ones in technology, while the high-end ones march on towards concept vehicles. 

Concerns about Energy Subsidies and Charging Stations Declining

Thanks to policy support, clean energy vehicles have really become a hotspot in recent years. However, companies producing clean energy vehicles are faced not only with huge opportunities, but also with great pressure. Technology in battery and product improvement should be updated; new competitors are swarming into the market; there is also a decline in subsidy and the distribution of charging stations is imbalanced.

There is a definite decline in subsidies for buying clean energy vehicles. Nielsen carried out in depth interviews with experts on new energy vehicles, who stated that such decline was sure to bring pressure on companies. However, these companies would not simply sit by and see it all happen. Innovation in technology will surely bring to the companies a lower cost and even benefit the whole production chain.

Meanwhile, prolonging the production chain and providing value added services may also become a way of gaining benefits. For high quality vehicles, as Nielsen report shows, most of the consumers would be willing to pay a premium, instead of concerning too much about the lack of enough subsidies. The highest premium that consumers are willing to pay lies in BEV, reaching 53,000 yuan in 2017.

The distribution of charging stations is indeed affected by various situations in different areas. Yet luckily, the operators of charging stations maintain that the distribution is in line with the need in different areas, instead of with the subsidies. At present, operators are promoting DC stations mainly. But nearly 80% of respondents say that their living/working environment is fit for private charging stations. This means that there is also a huge potential for private AC stations to operate as well.