Zhang Youping, a Chinese retiree, purchased an all-electric, small sport-utility vehicle from BYD — China’s largest electric vehicle maker — at an auto show for around $20,000 last month. Her family has bought three gas-powered cars in the last decade, but she recently grew concerned about gas prices and decided to go electric “to save money.” A few months earlier, her son had also bought an E.V. It was a $10,000 hatchback from Leapmotor, another Chinese manufacturer.
This year, a quarter of all new cars purchased in China will be an all-electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid. There are, by some estimates, more than 300 Chinese companies making E.V.s, ranging from discount offerings below $5,000 to high-end models that rival Tesla and German automakers. There are roughly four million charging units in the country, double the number from a year ago, with more coming.
While other E.V. markets are still heavily dependent on subsidies and financial incentives, China has entered a new phase: Consumers are weighing the merits of electric vehicles against gas-powered cars based on features and price without much consideration of state support. By comparison, the United States is far behind. This year, the country passed a key threshold of E.V.s accounting for 5 percent of new car sales. China passed that level in 2018.